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Solnit writes: "Much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it."

Portrait, Rebecca Solnit. (photo: City Lights)
Portrait, Rebecca Solnit. (photo: City Lights)


Leftists Explain Things to Me

By Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch

27 September 12

 

ear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I've come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we're talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

Leftists Explain Things to Me

The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they're hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was impossible to discuss what Schwarzenegger was doing on climate change (and unnecessary for my interlocutors to know about it, no less figure out how to use it).

So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.

Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what's wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California's current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor's immediate response began, "Excuse me, she's anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs."

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don't simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.

My friend Jaime Cortez, a magnificent person and writer, sent this my way: "At a dinner party recently, I expressed my pleasure that some parts of Obamacare passed, and starting 2014, the picture would be improved. I was regaled with reminders of the horrors of the drone program that Obama supports, and reminded how inadequate Obamacare was. I responded that it is not perfect, but it was an incremental improvement, and I was glad for it. But really, I felt dumb and flat-footed for being grateful."

The Emperor Is Naked and Uninteresting

Maybe it's part of our country's Puritan heritage, of demonstrating one's own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies, and corruptions in the system.

Believe me, a lot of us already know most of the dimples on the imperial derriere by now, and there are other things worth discussing. Often, it's not the emperor that's the important news anyway, but the peasants in their revolts and even their triumphs, while this mindset I'm trying to describe remains locked on the emperor, in fury and maybe in self-affirmation.

When you're a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that's not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you're contributing, what kind of story you're telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

Sitting around with the first occupiers of Zuccotti Park on the first anniversary of Occupy, I listened to one lovely young man talking about the rage his peers, particularly his gender, often have. But, he added, fury is not a tactic or a strategy, though it might sometimes provide the necessary energy for getting things done.

There are so many ways to imagine this mindset -- or maybe its many mindsets with many origins -- in which so many are mired. Perhaps one version devolves from academic debate, which at its best is a constructive, collaborative building of an argument through testing and challenge, but at its worst represents the habitual tearing down of everything, and encourages a subculture of sourness that couldn't be less productive.

Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!

Picture Gandhi's salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea, or the Zapatistas, if Subcomandante Marcos was merely the master kvetcher of the Lacandon jungle, or an Aung San Suu Kyi who conducted herself like a caustic American pundit. Why did the Egyptian revolutionary who told me about being tortured repeatedly seem so much less bitter than many of those I run into here who have never suffered such harm?

There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn't -- and that it never will be. That's why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit du corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.

We talk about prefigurative politics, the idea that you can embody your goal. This is often discussed as doing your political organizing through direct-democratic means, but not as being heroic in your spirit or generous in your gestures.

Left-Wing Vote Suppression

One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this "evils" slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

I don't love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there's no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Before that transpires, there's something to be said for actually examining the differences. In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it's that the people in question won't be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.

An undocumented immigrant writes me, "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with." Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, "Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don't vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters."

Presidential electoral politics is as riddled with corporate money and lobbyists as a long-dead dog with maggots, and deeply mired in the manure of the status quo -- and everyone knows it. (So stop those news bulletins, please.) People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.

I didn't like Gore, the ex-NAFTA-advocate and pro-WTO shill, but I knew that the differences did matter, especially to the most vulnerable among us, whether to people in Africa dying from the early impacts of climate change or to the shift since 2000 that has turned our nation from a place where more than two-thirds of women had abortion rights in their states to one where less than half of them have those rights. Liberals often concentrate on domestic policy, where education, health care, and economic justice matter more and where Democrats are sometimes decent, even lifesaving, while radicals are often obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else.

I'm with those who are horrified by Obama's presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration's soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption "Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils." It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy. Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all U.S. presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don't have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don't like poison. You don't have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don't have to punish anyone, period.

We Could Be Heroes

We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.

Being different means celebrating what you have in common with potential allies, not punishing them for often-minor differences. It means developing a more complex understanding of the matters under consideration than the cartoonish black and white that both left and the right tend to fall back on.

Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligations those facts bring to bear on your life. As Michael Eric Dyson recently put it, "What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don't have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you're engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people."

Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as "snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left." All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don't matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you're privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.

The desperate are often much more hopeful than that -- the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, that amazingly effective immigrant farmworkers' rights group, is hopeful because quitting for them would mean surrendering to modern-day slavery, dire poverty, hunger, or death, not cable-TV reruns. They're hopeful and they're powerful, and they went up against Taco Bell, McDonald's, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's, and they won.

The great human-rights activist Harvey Milk was hopeful, even though when he was assassinated gays and lesbians had almost no rights (but had just won two major victories in which he played a role). He famously said, "You have to give people hope."

In terms of the rights since won by gays and lesbians, where we are now would undoubtedly amaze Milk, and we got there step by step, one pragmatic and imperfect victory at a time -- with so many more yet to be won. To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.

There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve? And who do you want to be? And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as do it with generosity and kindness and style.

That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don't you? Make sure you're clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like.

Love,

Rebecca



Rebecca Solnit is the author of 15 books, including two due out next year, and a regular contributor to TomDispatch.com. She lives in San Francisco, is from kindergarten to graduate school a product of the once-robust California public educational system, and her book "A Paradise Built in Hell" is the One City/One Book choice of the San Francisco Public Library this fall.

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+5 # dkonstruction 2012-09-27 13:52
Rebecca, I agree with much of what you write and you have summed up a segment of the comments that routinely appear on this board. At the same time, you are only describing (and critiquing) one side of the coin: those that are only totally critical of Obama but you don't really talk about those that are basically uncritical (or who defelct blame/responsib ility onto the republicans) of either Obama or the Democratic Party as a whole. Had the piece included a critique of both those that see Obama as either "savior" or "devil" it would have been a much stronger and much more balanced piece. For, in reality the "far left" you are talking about has no influence (unfortunately in my view) nor does "the left" as a whole (depending on how we define "left") and so the discussion also has to be how does "the left" critique both the dems and the repubs (as well as the ron paul libertarian types) as part of an overall strategy to build a larger, more influential genuinely progresive or left movement in this country. And, finally, criticism is not the problem...we should be relentlessly critical of both parties...the problem is when such criticism becomes used as an excuse and or justification for doing nothing.

Finally, my experience has been that the type of "leftist" you are describing are almost always "petite bourgeois" or "trust fund" leftist types and so i think you are also making a class critique but this needs to be made alot more explicit.
 
 
+2 # beeyl 2012-09-28 01:03
I agree: to me, a problem with the members of both parties - that's much more significant than over-critical perfectionists being the enemy of an over-criticized good president - is tribalism. Folks who went from condemning Bush to praising/defend ing Obama for nearly identical behavior (e.g., too much state secrecy, too little accountability) constitute a majority of the Democratic Party. These people, like their more numerous tribal counterparts in the GOP, care only about the D or R designation, and will defend or crucify a candidate accordingly. And this year, to me, tribal Dems are committing the most un-democratic of sins: pledging their support (and vote) for Obama NO MATTER WHAT he does or doesn't do.

On a more emotional level, I'd say this about Rebecca's article: probably the most common and most important reason people complain - about the mundane details of their lives or the more global unpleasantries of politics - is to be heard and understood. Most people who complain want that intelligent empathy she mentions and urges us all to embrace. But in this article, instead of demonstrating such empathy, her message to those who would share their complaints about Obama or other Dems is, "Please stop, I've heard it a thousand times, I already know what you're going to say, and you're just being an idealistic narcissist." And that's not going to make anyone feel less aggrieved or disgruntled.
 
 
0 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 09:53
agreed
 
 
0 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 09:52
When you speak of trust fund leftists (which I'm not sure I agree are the worst complainers) are you talking about "White Guilt?"
 
 
+15 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 10:10
"White guilt" is a phrase invented by the right-wing to ridicule the left for pointing out the reality of racism. The idea is that no real white person would ever complain about it unless he secretly wished he was black or felt guilty about his skin color.

If you think it's morally wrong to take food away from children - "white guilt".

If you think it's wrong to make it harder for minorities to vote - "white guilt".

It's a catch-all for anything the right wants to do to minorities and doesn't want people to look at through an honest lense.
 
 
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 11:45
skylev, wasn't meaning to suggest that these type of "leftists" are the "worst complainers."

To answer your question: no, i am not making a racial argument here in any. I was trying to say, perhaps badly, that at least in my experience, those "leftists" that argue that there is no difference between the two parties or that voting itself doesn't matter or that not voting is better than voting for the "leser of two evils" have tended to come not from the working class or poor but tend to be middle class, educated backgrounds. They thus tend to be people who will never directly feel the "difference" between a republican administration that e.g., cuts off unemployment benefits vs. a democratic one that votes to extend them. So, my point was about class not about race.

I think much of it comes ultimately from a misunderstandin g and misreading of the reform/revoluti on relationship and turns this into a false either/or.

As for "white guilt"...since i did not create nor impose the institutional racism that persists in this country i don't feel i have anything to feel guilty about. However, as one who benefits from "white priviledge" in this country i do believe in "white responsibillity /obligation" to combat white privilege and fight against this institutionaliz ed racism.

as the song says it's a question of "which side are you on" or as Howard Zinn put it in the title of his autobiography "You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train"
 
 
0 # RLF 2012-10-02 06:29
I believe this article is undercover for another author...Raum Emanuelle. This woman is calling us "Fucking retarded liberals". Well...I say to her...given a couple of years and she could rationalize Hitler taking power. I think she needs to get out of the university and head to an art school so she can learn to think critically and not just take for truth what is written by 'the best minds'...the conventional wisdom that has politicians and academics saying 'I didn't see the real estate bubble coming!'
 
 
0 # unitedwestand 2012-10-01 02:57
dkonstruction, you just proved Rebecca's point, the article did not include all of your concerns. She wasn't focusing on strict, opinionated people that don't want to hear dissent.

I appreciate that Rebecca has expressed what I'm noticing with some of my progressive friends. She mentioned all the items they complain about (drones etc.) so I won't.

Some actually express that I'm being naive or unrealistic, when in my mind I'm thinking the same about them. I want to say: Okay, let's say you had become president in 2008 and not Obama, you think that the real powers behind the government would have let you do what you believe is the right thing to do?

It is a shame that in whatever side we may be on, that we don't come together more, our enemies are not Democrats or Republicans (well, maybe the Tea Party/NeoCons more) but corporatocracy, war profiteers and banksters.
 
 
+1 # unitedwestand 2012-10-01 03:27
As long as I've been able to vote, and I've been through several, I've always heard that it was voting between two evils. In retrospect, I can now see that some choices made by voters ended up to be certifiably evil, in the long run. Nixon, Reagan, HW Bush, GW Bush, all left their evil legacies. Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and now Obama, gave us or have attempted to return to the people a modicum of equity.

It is obvious to me that some evil doers are more so than others. In this election it should be a no brainer to everyone which side is not worthy of your consideration.

I do fear that many are considering a protest vote and we will certainly end up with the more evil.
 
 
+15 # orwell, by george 2012-09-27 14:21
i don't tolerate murder and betrayal.
sorry bout dat.
 
 
+16 # LiberalRN 2012-09-28 00:14
Then you will be not tolerating a whole lot more of it, should Romney & Co. take the reins and steer us into another war.
 
 
+2 # Richard Raznikov 2012-09-28 11:30
The point is not tolerating regardless of which candidate is elected or which party is doing it. I agree with Orwell. And Solnit is disingenuous with her title –– she merely accuses people of 'whining' but fails to mention the real views of 'leftists' –– or simply honest people –– who will not support the reelection of a fraud.
 
 
0 # Ralph Averill 2012-09-28 04:53
And this intolerance accomplishes exactly what, other than "the cultivation of your own moral superiority"?
 
 
-1 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 09:54
I agree with the writer there are other ways to start and lead a revolution but it is the detail oriented complainers that point this stuff out. Morally superior we probably, as you, are.
 
 
+28 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-27 14:33
Rebecca,
Wonderful article and something that must be said aloud. Indeed the perfect is the enemy of the good and as you wrote, good is good and bad is bad. Each one of us have done both good and bad. As a resident of MA, I can even point to some good things that Romney did as Governor and Romneycare is not one of them.
Indirectly, I think, you have pointed out why the nation is sliding to the right, year after year. Even though that slide will end up with the US falling off a cliff. A cliff that may come as soon as January.
The left is attempting to resolve everything at once, an impossible task that if attempted is certain to end in failure. I see that as what Obama did when he decided on Health Care. That the results were incremental is indicative of how large the struggle is. And that is where I think I differ with you regarding Occupy. They are having the discussions about what the shape of the future will and should be. A large, world changing task. The fact they have not jumped into large scale action and concentrated on the small indicates to me that Occupy understands the scope it needs to address. The world must change, but the evolution to a critical mass for global change cannot be forced. We on the left, to your point, need to understand we must keep after the small victories until critical mass is achieved. It ain't gonna happen by itself, or overnight.

Thank You
 
 
+17 # dkonstruction 2012-09-27 16:18
I agree Brad but at the same time isn't it "the left's" job to be critical not just in terms of pointing out "the bad" but more importantly to offer a real alternative and a vision for how to get there?

I agree it doesn't mean we will get it all at once but isn't it our obligation to put it out there so that: a) when we compromise we are starting from a principled uncompromised vision; and, b) so that people are presented with a alternative?

So, to use your example of health care example, shouldn't the vision have been one of a universal non-profit health care system (which right off the bat would have cut costs by at least 20% and probably alot more after you eliminated the for-profit insurance companies so you can actually make the "fiscally conservative" argument for it)? So, yes we should say that it is a good thing that people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be able to be denied coverage but at the same time we should also say that a real opportunity for a game changer was missed and this is what it was and why. Not so that we then say see there's not difference between parties or any of that nonsense but so that we can then strategize over what we can do differently next time, over whatever the next big issue is, to open the space and create the conditions under which larger more progressive measures can be implemented.
 
 
+5 # Ralph Averill 2012-09-28 05:01
Agreed, dkon, especially the last sentence. Politics is the science of the possible. (Tip O'Neil, I think, said that.) As Ms. Solnit wrote, history is more often a series of little, incremental victories.
 
 
-1 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 06:39
DK,

You are correct, it is the responsibility of everyone to point out where leadership has gone wrong. It's called Democracy.
What the article and I were addressing are the people on the left that get their magic underwear all tied into knots (is that what makes them magic?) because the outcome was not what they wanted.
What you are pointing out with the Healthcare example is a question of tactics. In that matter we are all Monday morning quarterbacks. I would certainly have initially pushed for the system you advocate, but in the end would we have even gotten as much as we did? The only way to find out is to borrow Obama's time machine and go back and try the path you favor. Wait a minute, with a time machine, maybe Obama has already done that and failed!
Whether the President really has a time machine or not, Healthcare is only one of a myriad number of issues that must be dealt with. Those issues cover so many issues and are so interrelated that until we can gather up a focused view of the future we will continue to solve them temporarily one by one.
 
 
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 08:14
Brad, I think it is more than just tactics. For me it is about articulating a clear alternative and vision of where you want to go or what kind of country/society you want to live in. so, my criticism of Obama on health care was not that he had to compromise to get what he got but that he did not start from that visioned position and really used his oratory skills to make the case for it. So, for example, the dems basically never challenged the absurd republican idea that people should be able to choose which types of things they want included in their health care coverage and which they don't (like Michelle Bachman saying people should not be forced to buy insurance that covered cancer if they don't want to). This totally misunderstands and distorts the whole notion of social insurance which is to insure all against anything and everything they cannot predict and by doing so spread the cost out amongst the largest possible group which makes the overall cost as low as it can be for everyone. For the most part the dems never articulated this or how a universal health care system works (i.e., that people can keep their own doctors, it doesn't "ration" health care any more than it is currently but it changes it so that this is not based on who has money and who doesn't). I suspect we probably agree on this stuff more than we disagree (and, as always am a bit dismayed at the thumbs down you've gotten). As for whether we would have gotten as much as we did....
 
 
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 08:19
I don't see how it would have hurt (or as you put it that we might not have gotten whatever we did get) had a real alternative been posed. on this one, i don't agree. Obama and the dems could always compromise but at least they would have put something out there that was real, practical, could easily have been implemented, would have covered everyone for everything, gotten health care out of being an employer funded system, reduced costs by eliminating unnecessary for-profit health insurance companies...etc ....again, i think we probably agree on the goals. But, without articulating and pushing for this how are people ever going to even consider such an alternative? Doesn't mean we delude ourselves into thinking we will get it all or take some stupid all or nothing position but it recognizes that if these battles are long-term then we have to start putting out a real vision of the kind of game changing changes we want, how they could be implemented (and paid for), what they would do and why they are important. At least it gets people thinking not to mention that if articulated well i think it could have reached some of the disaffected t-party base (not their demagogic billionaire manipulators of course) that unfortunately the dems and progressives in general just completely wrote off thus giving these folks no where else to go but into the arms of the ultra-right. So, yes, be tactical and "realistic" but also be a visionary. I see no contradiction in fighting for both.
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 09:12
]Since my comment was about the need for the dems to articulate a real vision i take it that those of you who have given me a thumbs down think that the dems should not articulate a real vision for substantive change? Sad, if this is the case. In this case, how are "mindless" uncritical supporters of the dems/Obama any better than the "mindless" uncritical critics? Is this really what american politics has come to? Either we uncritically support the dems no matter what or we condemn them totally no matter what? Just goes to show how badly we need to revamp our public education system so that we teach people what critical thinking is all about and how to do some.
 
 
+2 # beeyl 2012-09-28 10:40
I'm not sure why the thumbs up thumbs down thing is included here. It's completely anonymous and can be used for all sorts of reasons (from legitimate to Jr High random and gratuitous meanness). You shouldn't have to assume why people give you a thumbs down, especially when you write something as inarguable as you've done.
 
 
+3 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 10:59
DK,
Obama has repeatedly said out loud that a single payer health care system is the best option. He also, at one point made reference that we have further to go.

In any case, I still stand by it was a tactic that did succeed at implementing some fixes to many of the worst practices in the pre-ACA Health insurance world. Considering the outrageous attacks made, his choice to start negotiating where he did MAY have been key to his victory.

However as you say, and it makes my point, we agree on the end result. And, I will add that I agree with you that he should have made a more aggressive presentation. But in the end, he got something done, and kudos to President Obama; his tactics worked.
 
 
+1 # Richard Raznikov 2012-09-28 11:28
Only thing wrong with this is that Obama and the Democrats could easily have passed single payer. What stopped them was the Senate rules, which in modern days permit the substitution of the ability to block votes without a majority –– replacing the old, real filibuster system. Obama and the Democratic leadership wanted to be able to blame Republicans and in a try at 'rallying' the troops told the public that they needed a 60-vote 'super-majority .' Lacking one, they could not enact single payer. But the truth is that they needed only a majority to change the Senate rules back to the real filibuster system and thus unlock the process. We could have had single payer but Obama didn't want it and so camouflaged his true intent. Look at all of the promises broken: no lobbyists in his White House/cabinet (47 at last count), prosecution of banking fraud (none), closing Guantanamo (didn't happen), and end to warrantless wiretaps (they've increased –– and so on. I'm a lifelong Democrat and will not vote for anyone this relentlessly dishonest.
 
 
-1 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 11:52
Brad, i agree that Obama has said that a single-payer system would be the best option (though i don't think he ever did a particularly good job explaining why but this is another question) but then the compromise would have been the public option but here too i think he didn't articulate this vision well nor did he fight for this (i think he gave up this "fight" before it have ever really begun). I agree that obama made tactical decisions (and he may well have been right about how much he could have gotten through congress) but i still think that very few dems actually articulate or push for substantive progressive change...i suspect we agree more than not and perhaps some of this is semantics but i'm not sure all of it is.
 
 
+3 # Billy Bob 2012-09-27 22:51
Another great comment! Thank you BradFromSalem!
 
 
+3 # tonywicher 2012-09-27 15:02
Obama is a political animal who came in backed by the neoliberals, which include Clinton, the DLC, Brzezinski, Buffet, Bill Gates, Soros etc. Obama has been subservient to the Wall Street and the CIA in his first four years. But Wall Street is crashing and Afghanistan is ending in ignominious defeat. Obama may decide it is time to fire Geithner, break up the big banks, and put an end to the CIA by exposing 9/11. He isn't the devil. Call it "The Audacity of Hope II".
 
 
+3 # Richard Raznikov 2012-09-27 20:41
Yeah, Obama's new slogan might be "This time I really mean it."
 
 
+11 # davidr 2012-09-27 15:53
Well said, Rebecca.

I'd like to know what election in a large population isn't a choice of the lesser evil.

Adopt the terms “good” and “evil” for argument’s sake, and imagine that all voters would choose unalloyed good as it appears to them. Among 100+ million voters of different persuasions, only one idea of good can achieve plurality, meaning that the majority will end up judging the outcome evil in some degree. By this reckoning, one evil or another MUST always prevail at the ballot box. By what moral economy should we not desire the lesser?

This is not an abstract point. In America today, we have lots of citizens who presume to an infallible view of what’s good, who sneer at other views as “reality based”, who cast single-issue votes. These citizens constitute a plurality if the rest of us abjure the lesser evil.

Do voters on the left really believe that all evil is one evil? That civics is a war between good and evil? When did we become Manicheans? When did we throw in with the religious right?

Jill Stein, for better or worse, will never be President. We can vote for her, but only at the risk of having Paul Clement on SCOTUS. Vote for Jerry White and risk the Ryan budget. Tradeoffs are not an abuse of politics, they ARE politics.

So, cheers to impure conscience. With time and pressure, the lesser evil can be made lesser still. The greater evil, on the other hand, can easily move in a whole other direction.
 
 
+5 # dbriz 2012-09-27 19:33
"By this reckoning one evil or another MUST always prevail at the ballot box. By what moral economy should we not desire the lesser?".

I'm not sure Mandela or Debs would see it this way.

We are under no moral obligation to desire or vote any amount of evil.

By voting third party, write in or abstaining we exercise the option of following our conscience whether purely or "impurely".

As a matter of fact by any of the above we register our moral right to refuse to either endorse or mandate any expectation of approval to either major party.

Who can say whether or not this fact may motivate them more than your endorsement of their "lesser evil"?

"With time and pressure, the lesser evil can be made lesser still"

Or not. By giving it an election "mandate", lesser evil could become worse by degrees.

"The greater evil, on the other hand,can easily move in a whole other direction."

I assume you mean worse rather than better "whole other direction".

This too is pure conjecture. It also could be that the greater evil, more egregiously exposed for all to see, would result in the people demanding impeachment or even taking to the streets.
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-09-27 23:00
Comparing our situation and what would work for us to "what would Mandela do" is a bit disengenuous.

When Mandela went to prison he had nothing left to lose. As American citizens we have A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT more to lose.

The only way for you to be making that argument honestly is if you yourself are in prison for a political crime while writing it. Are you? If not, the Mandela reference is dishonest and needlessly melodramatic.

Your last paragraph is hilarious. How much pressure do you honestly think george bush jr. would have felt from you personally during ANY of his 8 years in office. Do you think he honestly cares if you think 9/11 was a crime he committed? Do you honestly think he cares if you think he should be in prison right now? Do you honestly think YOU could have stood in his way of enstating martiall law and remaining in the White House until he died of natural causes?

"Demand" all you want. Republican ears WON'T listen, and left-wingers WON'T violently overthrow a repug President. Do you honestly think President Twit Romney WON'T put you in jail for "demanding" anything that gets in the way of his agenda?

This is the real world.
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 08:28
Debs initially ran as a democrat and Mandela (or the ANC) built alliances with a wide spectrum of forces not all of whom they agreed with about everything. So, it is not about purity or who's evil and who isn't...it's about the real conditions that real people live and suffer everyday and what can be done to make things better (even in ways that to most may seem small e.g., extending unemployment benefits but for those affected can make a real difference in their day to day existance. Otherwise, we lock ourselves into a "revolution" or "nothing" strategy that at best is naive and at worst completely self-defeating and ultimately becomes nothing more than a pseudo-intellec tual justification for doing nothing.
 
 
0 # davidr 2012-09-28 23:16
Good & evil are matters of principle; free elections are matters of better & worse. The difference is categorical. Elections aren’t needed to decide one’s principles, but to determine where voters align as a whole. We would not need frequent elections if we believed they could determine good over evil. Those matters don’t change biennially. We have frequent elections because we know they’re imperfect — provisional, unsatisfactory in some degree. Why? Because they select the lesser evil. That’s what they’re for. They do not, thank God, settle things once & for all.

Mandela & Debs held firm moral principles, but as practicing politicians, did not expect conformity among their voters. These men stood where they stood and cast their net as wide as possible. Neither said, “If you disagree with me on ANYTHING, then don’t vote for me.” Neither called himself flawless or his policies perfect — they weren’t demagogues.

We may all abstain or vote for someone who can’t win, and it’s not immoral to do so, but those choices involve tradeoffs — just as a vote for R or D does. Whenever tradeoffs occur in a context of moral choice, the lesser evil is the optimal result. WE SEPARATE CHURCH & STATE PRECISELY TO PROTECT THE LESSER EVIL AGAINST ABSOLUTE GOOD. For myself, I vote knowing that Absolute Good isn’t running. I keep voting because I want Lesser Evil to become lesser still, so that the improvement project begins from no farther behind the eight ball than need be.
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-27 22:49
davidr,

OH MY GOD!!!

THAT WAS AN AMAZING COMMENT!!!

THANK YOU!!! I REALLY AM SHOUTING AT HOME TOO!!!

PLEASE COMMENT MORE!!!!

As a man with what George Costanza calls, "a staunch record of heterosexuality ", let me say that IF YOU WERE HERE I'D KISS YOU!!!

That was literally the most perfectly worded comment I've ever read on any of these threads.
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 08:24
Davidr, i agree with your overall point but i do think that people in solidly dem states (e.g., like ny and cal.) can and should develop campaigns to build a sizable enough third party vote (such as the greens) that they could then have some real influence over the direction of the democratic party as a whole. I currently split my time between ny and ct. and so have decided to register in ct. this time around to try and prevent the repubs from taking back the senate but if i were voting in ny i would vote green. So, it's not about purity or impurity but rather about tactics and strategy and so i don't find it particularly helpful to either just condemn obama as the devil or laud over him as the poor beieged savior who if only the repubs didn't have the house everyting would be fine. neither view is correct and does little to advance a genuinely progressive or transformative political agenda.
 
 
+1 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 09:18
more mindless thumbs downs? if you disagree with something why don't you say what it is so we can actually have a discussion? do you think i care whether i get thumbs ups or thumbs down? they are meaningless. what matters is to actually have a serious political discussion in this country about the serious questions and problems that face us. since my main point was about how i don't think it is particularly helpful to simply brand Obama as either savior or devil i gather you disagree and think he is one or the other? Or is it the third party/strategic voting thing? AT least if people actually respond to comments instead of just mindlessly voting thumbs up or thumbs down we could actually advance the discussion (which after all should be about practical tactics and strategies otherwise it's all just mental masterbation
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 09:50
It seems always happen when political strategy is discussed.

The fact is that BOTH sides of this argument are unpopular and controversial at the same time.

Republicans would refer to this as "divide and conquer". We are certainly divided. I'm beginning to wonder if the republican polls showing that mitt might actually slip by and win are correct. I know a lot of black people who all say they won't be voting in this election. Most polls are counting on blacks voting in the same numbers they did in 2008. If they don't and white liberals vote the way these threads show they will, say "hello" to President Romney!

If this actually happens I don't think we'll be discussing OUR differences in January.

It's sad that the only time the left can fight as a unified front is when we're completely out of power and have no say.

Then again, maybe fox viewers are just coming out to give BOTH sides of the argument thumbs down. I know I've received more than a few.
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 13:05
See?! I even got a thumbs down for discussing how stupid it is with you.
 
 
0 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 11:12
DK,

It is sad but sometimes it seems that persons on the left are just as fearful of nuance as the persons on the right. Perhaps that is too much of a generalization but I fear that stating that point of view has already gotten me a bunch of the red thumbs.

Comments are rarely personal (except in the case of unintelligible Right Wing drivel) and disagreements over a point is not a blanket condemnation.

With that being said, DavidR's comments are equally true in the other, positive direction. Elections are a choice between the greater of two goods. I know there ain't much good about Mitt, but I do believe that he is not evil. Naive, maybe even stupid, but he is not evil; few people are.
 
 
+21 # dbriz 2012-09-27 16:13
Rebecca: Your plea for what an infusion of optimism for by now familiar LOTE defense of Obama is noted.

I would point out to you however that wholehearted endorsement of your position requires one to see all disappointments as bearing near equal weight. To do so requires a distortion of reality.

Some things are more important than others. Each of us must make our choices among many competing issues.

I ask myself this question: What do the two Parties currently agree on?

Answer:

NDAA, bailouts, "too big to fail, The Patriot Act (I can't tell you how that name makes me grind my teeth), preemptive wars, unitary executive decision making, a foreign policy based on militarism rather than peace making.

There is more but you get the drift.

As campaign issues I have heard little to nothing from either candidate/Party about changing any of the above.

Yet, to me these issues should take precedence because they go directly to the existential question of whether freedom, liberty and constitutional government can survive in the 21st century.

Most of the items the parties differ on i.e., rates of taxation, efficacy of government "programs", healthcare, etc, while significant, can be adjusted, fine tuned and expanded or reduced in good time. All will all most likely be settled by political compromise.

So, your sincerity acknowledged, LOTE doesn't work for me
 
 
+2 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 06:56
dbriz,

We don't hear from either candidate on the issues you list that the rank and file of the two major parties agree on for two simple reasons.
Both major party candidates agree with each other and disagree with the rank and file. So, neither candidate would bring up an issue where their position will turn away people from voting for them.

Your comments really drive home the fact that contrary to what many believe we do not have a 2 party system. We have a system that is not defined along party lines, it is designed to be a non partisan system. Prior to the Civil War the political parties were fluid coalitions that changed names and members about every 3 election cycles. Since then, the two parties that were extant then are still the major parties. Our politics has been co-opted into a de-facto two party system, which coincidentally parallel the rise of corporate power. Until the hold of these parties over America is broken, the people will continue to have a back seat.

You are correct, the LOTE dilemna, which I admit often drives my vote is the hold the parties have over us.
 
 
-1 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 08:34
dbriz, the point is that it is not about you...ie., "LOTE doesn't work for me"...it's about all those that would have lost unemployment benefits had the repubs controlled both the house and the senate...it's about all those with pre-existing conditions who would not have gotten coverage etc....do i like the dems...no, never have, never will. i've never been a dem and never will be but that doesn't mean that i don't see that in the real world there is a difference (not substantively as in if the dems are elected they will somehow transform the system or anything like that) particularly for those at the bottom...so to say "it doesn't work for me" i think is basically say that we don't give a s*&T about these folks because nothing short of "revolutionary" change is going to help...while i might agree with this in the abstract and in the long run...people don't live in the abstract or in the long run...we live in the concrete and the here and now. So, yes we have to be relentless in our criticism of Obama and the dems (which is my main problem with this article i.e., it doesn't address those who are completely uncritical) but that should not mean that we also abandon our understanding of the real costs for millions of people if the repubs were to take back not only the white house but also the house and senate.
 
 
+13 # futhark 2012-09-27 17:13
A very basic problem is the utter waste and futility of American military involvement in the Middle East. It is patently obvious that the 9/11 attacks were planned and executed by people within the borders of the United States, so chasing after Muslims in the Middle East in no way serves the cause of justice, but continually ramps up the levels of pain, injury, injustice, and hatred.

And who benefits? The military-indust rial complex and the surveillance state apparatus, both of which are tremendously profitable and both of which constitute the greatest threat to democratic government and our inherent and Constitutional rights. Any candidate who pursues policies that favor these cliques should be eliminated from consideration for any office.

Don't vote for a monster who is a front man for the MIC and the SSA. Don't give him money or excuse him from responsibility for the evil that he does or intends to do. Forget about left or right, liberal or conservative, sure winners vs. sure losers. Use your vote as an ethical statement. Any other use is an utter waste or worse.
 
 
+8 # Dennis Loo 2012-09-27 22:23
Let us suppose that John McCain won the 2008 presidential election. What would be different today than it is under Obama?

Would he have closed Gitmo? No, but neither, of course, has Obama. Would McCain have refused to prosecute the high crimes and felonies of Bush et al as Obama has? Would he have secretly promised the HMO's that he wouldn't introduce a government option as Obama did? Would McCain have extended the Bush trillion plus tax cuts? Would McCain have continued rendition and deported more immigrants than Bush did, gone after whistleblowers more aggressively than Bush, the way Obama has?

What would have happened if McCain declared that he had a presidential "kill list" and insisted that he would only sign the NDAA if American citizens were also included in the bill, as Obama has done? Would McCain have overruled his own FDA recommendations and prevented girls 17 and under from getting the Plan B contraception, as Obama has done?

Would there have been as many "leftists" defending his decisions as the "lesser evil?"
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 08:32
Would McCain have already started the war with Iran that Romney wants? YES.

Would he have withdrawn anybody from Iraq and Afghanistan? NO.

Would McCain have already selected a few more Supreme Court justices just as bad as Scalia? YES. In fact, a few right-wing justices are just waiting for another repug so they can retire.

Would McCain have done much much much more damage to Social Security and Medicare? YES

Would you have the legal right to even bitch about it without being intimidated by government thugs making a little visit to your house to "discuss things" with you? NO.

Part of war is knowing that your enemy has MORE plans for FURTHER destruction. The right isn't done with their agenda yet. You seem to think bush jr. already accomplished everything on their agenda, and therefore things couldn't possibly get any worse. You seem to have no idea how ambitious the right's plans are.

If Obama loses this election I want all the "anti-increment alists" on this thread to enlist in the army, so people who honestly TRIED to avoid the coming war with Iran don't have to be drafted.
 
 
+3 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 11:17
BB,

You forgot to mention:

Would the US be in a similar situation as Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Greece. YES
 
 
+1 # Richard Raznikov 2012-09-28 11:54
Well, not quite, Billy Bob. Whichever candidate wins we will have war with Iran –– Obama's merely waiting until after November; he has already imposed serious economic sanctions which ARE acts of war. McCain would have 'withdrawn' from Iraq exactly as Obama has, because we were required to by treaty; the Iraqis celebrated in the streets when we 'left' –– and there remain 50,000 mercenaries there employed by corporations. There will be no draft regardless of who wins because they don't want to stir up opposition among the young and their parents. As for an incipient police state, tell me which President sponsored the NDAA and its abolition of habeas corpus, its provision for indefinite detention without trial. The only thing on your list with any real support is the Supreme Court situation, and given the actual behavior of Obama –– not his nice words or the ignorant assumptions of people who have not paid attention –– his presidency has repeatedly gone to court to stifle free speech, support domestic spying without warrants, and increase police powers. He has also militarized urban police forces, locked up whistle blowers, and classified as secret more documents than the past five presidents combined. Look, I backed him in 2008, voted for him, and worked for him. I wish it was different. But we have to face facts if we're going to get our country back.
 
 
-1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 13:24
Obama had 4 years to start a war with Iran. PNAC wanted it 20 years ago. McCain sang a song about it and didn't care how long it took or how many lives it would cost.

As for the NDAA, signing it is not "sponsoring" it. It was sponsored by the repugs who wrote it. He shouldn't have signed it.

He also hasn't bombed Iran. BOTH facts are true even though it makes reality more grey than you'd like.
 
 
+6 # Rich Austin 2012-09-27 22:27
The trouble with the left...?

It has been co-opted by self-aggrandizi ng outfits like MoveOn, Progressive Majority, Fuse, et al.

In my lifetime I’ve walked many, many picket lines for fellow workers. I’m yet to see any of the aforementioned “progressive” organizations on one of them! Not a one! Not once!

That is the trouble with the left. Real lefties are out doing the heavy lifting, while intellectuals posing as progressives are conducting word-warfare from cozy offices.

Want to know what the real left is thinking? Go out and ask some workers who have taken the time to fulfill a responsibility we all have...to educate ourselves about current events, and then apply them on a daily basis using this simple litmus test: “If it ain’t good for the working class it ain’t good. Period!”
 
 
+5 # Richard Raznikov 2012-09-28 11:55
Amen.
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-27 22:38
I'd like to have this entire article turned into wall paper. The truth hurts, especially to people too wrapped up in the pursuit of perfection to deal with reality.

As the article states, incremental improvement IS improvement.

There are SO many good quotes and takeaways from this article. One of them I'm not going to take the time to copy and paste was a reference to the comparison between electoral politics and marriage.

I seriously wonder how many people unable to compromise for the greater good are married? Anybody so unwilling to vote for the "lesser of two evils" COULD NOT SURVIVE A REAL MARRIAGE - at least after the wedding night.

Marriage is almost nothing BUT compromise. I've been married for over 20 years and I NEVER get what I want. My wife NEVER gets what she wants either. My kids bitch because we MAKE them do things they don't feel like, so they exaggerate and believe they NEVER get what they want, even though they eat every time they choose and sleep in doors in a nice house.

My kids are too young to know first-hand how ugly the real world can be and how lucky they are just to have parents who love them.

CONT.
 
 
+3 # Billy Bob 2012-09-27 22:39
CONT.

My wife and I are too old and well experienced with reality to NOT know how good we have it to be married and be forced to CONSTANTLY make all these concessions. If my wife and I were constantly in the pursuit of purity and perfect records getting what we personally wanted, we'd be at each other's throats about EVERYTHING from minor things like soaking dishes to major things like how to raise our children and deal with our money (or lack thereof). Instead, we've chosen the greater good of getting what's REALLY most important to us (i.e. the continuance of our relationship).

THINGS CAN AND WILL GET WORSE. There IS a difference between Twit romney and President Obama. Failing to see or admit that difference IS the difference between being a grown-up capable of dealing with the real world in a grown-up way (as in a marriage) and a child incapable of coping when anything doesn't go perfectly (discuss the real world with an average high school kid and see what I mean).

Would you rather live with a comfortable roof over your head with people you love, knowing full well you'll almost never get your way?

Or, would you rather live alone just for the sake of ALWAYS getting your way?

Would you rather win in electoral politics in the real world occassionally, even though it means losing every other time?

Or, would you rather keep your purity and just lose 100% of the time?

CONT.
 
 
+5 # Billy Bob 2012-09-27 22:40
CONT.

As a married man who has to fight for the blankets with the woman I love and who has to spend a few hours a night getting some of my children (whom I couldn't live without) just to go to bed...

As a married man who knows the difference between reality and fantasy, I can tell you that losing 1/2 of the time is a HELL OF A LOT better than losing ALL of the time. I've lived through too many repug presidencies to be ok with allowing the GREATER of two evils to further destroy my country due to my own inability to do what was necessary to prevent it.

THANK YOU Rebecca Solnit, and THANK YOU RSN for at least giving this view point and airing - in between the constant harping on by commenters about how horrible it is to participate in electing someone with a chance of actually winning.
 
 
+6 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 11:22
Bravo!
 
 
+4 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 13:03
Thank you!
 
 
0 # Jim Young 2012-09-30 10:22
Quoting BradFromSalem:
Bravo!

To repeat an ancestor's most noteworthy quote in a Revolutionary War Legislature, "I like what that man said."

I wish I could use shorter comments, that some might actually take time to read and think about, short and concise enough, to follow Kareem Abdul Jabbar's advice to, "get my point across without offending, or confusing people. I like what Rebecca has to say but my attention span is almost as short as the worst of us in that regard.

What are the best, short, and memorable points? The marriage comparison works for me, then I'll pay more attention to the longer articles.
 
 
+3 # mikiholden@aol.com 2012-09-27 23:13
Yes, it's a very imperfect system. But we are going to have either Obama or Romney in the White House come January. I hate some of the things Obama has done and will undoubtedly continue to do. But I would certainly rather have Obama, with his positions on health care, right to choose, tax policy, than Romney. So I will not throw away my vote on a no-hoper (if I even knew of one) whose every position agreed with mine when it means increasing the chance that citizens go without insurance, that women are forced back into illegal abortions, etc. etc. Another name for the lesser of two evils is the better of two choices. Until we have public funding (by real people!) which allows more than two viable candidates to get onto the ballot, I will go for what is realistically possible and work for further progress from there.
 
 
0 # Jim Young 2012-09-30 10:25
Please add preferential choice to rank our votes (prevent the travesty of a Governor Le Page type win in Maine).
 
 
-1 # mgwmgw 2012-09-27 23:17
As I have posted elsewhere, let me recommend that if you live in a location where you can already predict whether Obama or Romney will win in your state (or equivalent), as I do, then please please vote for the third party of your choice: Libertarian or Green or other.

Having stronger third parties will broaden the set of topics and solutions that get discussed, and that is a good thing. Ending the war against marijuana, for example, would be a great way to reduce government spending. While I can understand disagreement with the likes of Bob Barr, some of you may be very pleasantly surprised at where Gary Johnson and Jill Stein overlap in their views. It is not necessary for a third party candidate to win in order to make political change, but the more votes they get, the easier that change is likely to be.

If you live in a swing state, where your vote actually determines whether we get Romney or Obama, I would agree that Obama is the less bad of the two of them. If you also think this, then go ahead and vote for the person you that think should win. Obama may still be evil, but that is not a reason to allow Romney to win.
 
 
0 # dick 2012-09-27 23:18
There is much to consider in this plea, but it assaults some straw persons & is a trifle condescending. Critics of Obama KNOW Romney is worse. But endorsing & enabling Obama's Cheney-Bush Lite is DANGEROUS. i think conscientious people in clearly Red or Blue states should vote 3rd party, send a message. $$ should go to Liz. Obama should be LAME "duck"(just about everything) & Liz should be heir apparent. Barry's Nixon pardon for Wall St is Obstruction of Justice. He BETRAYED his country.
 
 
+8 # ddanne1 2012-09-27 23:29
AT WHAT COST AND WHEN DO WE STOP VOTING FOR THE LESSER?

VOTING FOR EITHER MAJOR POLITICAL PARTY DIMINISHES US BY TAKING AWAY OUR MORAL AND SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY. BOTH PARTIES ARE NOT ONLY BEHOLDEN TO CORPORATE
POWER BUT CONVINCE US TO DENY REALITY IN HOW WE USE OUR SUPERIOR MILITARY POWER
TO INVADE AND EXPLOIT OTHER NATIONS AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE GUISE OF FIGHTING
TERRORISM.

Third Parties may not win but they sure can a show their displeasure rather than slavishly vote for more of the same.
 
 
+2 # Peace Anonymous 2012-09-28 00:05
Change You Can Believe In!
Obama steps into the Whitehouse as the Republicans and their extremely wealthy supporters circle the wagons and commit to do everything possible to derail any change. Even within the Democrats, whose campaigns were largely funded by corporate America, Obama could find little support. He was stuck between a rock and a hard spot because even the president can do little without some kind of support.
If Democrats believe their job is finished the second they cast their vote we may end up with a President who, once again, suffers from a tremendous lack of support. Even if Obama has the desire and the will to move forward he needs to know that he has the support of the people who elected him. That means getting involved and that means having a clear understanding of the issues.
You are not done on Nov. 06. You are just beginning.
 
 
+4 # sameasiteverwas 2012-09-28 00:16
Paul Wellstone said it as well: "Politics is what we create by what we do, what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine." He never said we could get it all in one election cycle, or one generation, or one lifetime -- but he was never going to give up on the big picture.

I think this article is brilliant. Even the comments tend to validate its cogent points -- and how great to see comments that are truly thoughtful, as if Rebecca has provoked us to examine those dark places, get beyond the superficial angst and the sedentary agitation that seems to rule our ordinary lives in these extraordinary times.

I live in one of those states where Democratic voter petulance or simple burn-out could lose us an otherwise sure Senate win. The points brought up in this article are vital, and hardly anyone on the ground is talking about them. Maybe we are shouting down our better angels when we support policies of this administration that we loathe; but it's the big picture we have to remember. Incremental steps will lead to the eventual tipping point that can make truly great things possible. Did you know -- when fifty-one percent of swallows decide to change direction, the whole flock follows, seamlessly integrated, going somewhere new.
 
 
+4 # beeyl 2012-09-28 00:39
"The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with."

Ok, so what's your plan for this negotiation? Once you've tallied the pros and cons for your ballot choices, and grown your optimism so you're choosing between the fuller of two mostly empty cups, what then? In the end, you the voter have the option to vote for Obama, Romney, or a third candidate, or to NOT vote. That makes your negotiating position extremely weak, optimism or no.

But if you celebrate complaint and criticism - call it holding our elected officials accountable to their promises, the Constitution, and the rule of law - then you gain a much stronger negotiating position. Complaining for me - about Obama's broken promises, the secret promise he kept to insurance companies (no PO in the final healthcare legislation), his abysmal record on civil rights, his mockery of the rule of law (retroactive immunity), his whitewashing of torture, his coverup of murder (Ishaqi), or his due-process free assassination of US citizens and their teenage children - is all about negotiating with my president: to earn another vote from me, he's going to have to do better with the time he has left. I started complaining shortly after his inauguration, when he had nearly 4 years to improve; sadly, he's now got less than 6 weeks left to demonstrate he's listening to me. But the truth is, it's probably difficult to hear me over all the voices telling me to quit griping.
 
 
+2 # Richard Raznikov 2012-09-28 01:48
Dear Rebecca,
I'm not at all sure your piece actually describes how "leftists" explain anything to you, since it appears to be missing such explanation. I'd like to help. For starters, try this:
http://lookingglass.blog.co.uk/2012/09/28/dear-rebecca-14896182/
 
 
0 # punch 2012-09-28 10:52
I checked out you web site and must say that I completely disagree that voting third party is useless and that abstaining is the only option. The argument was that a third party candidate has no chance of being elected. By that metric, what does abstaining do? It has no chance of doing anything else than helping the Republicans getting their candidate elected. (I'm of course assuming that your movement is made up of leftists.)

Instead the focus should not be on what chance your vote or non-vote has in determining who will be elected. It's about giving political capital to a third party, to oppose the two party sham, to make incremental change (yes, I used the phrase the "lesser of two evils" proponents like to use) away from the corporate party with two factions system. By giving political capital to a third party, and also working in all ways you can to strengthen that party, and making people see that the more people do so, the more difference it will make, you're actually making a change. By not voting, you will just be counted among those who are apathetic or indifferent to the whole thing.
 
 
+3 # PaineRad 2012-09-28 02:36
I acknowledge that this president has some very nice achievements that are benefiting a number of Americans.

And I give him credit for them. My complaints cover how little he attempts, how small his efforts are relative to the scope of the challenge/oppor tunity and what he is willing to give away without a fight.

I also acknowledge the unprecedented nature of his opposition from the GOP. But that is no excuse for negotiating yourself out of any meaningful response to real problems before proposing anything. It also does no good to acknowledge strategic blunders after the fact. We vote for a president who will avoid colossal blunders like kicking single-payer to the floor before even beginning. The fact that he did not get single-payer is not the issue.

The same sad story also surrounds the incompetently small stimulus proposal that leaves us with millions unemployed, the misguided call for the cat food commission, the lame duck surrender to McConnell who was prepared to give everything in the deal anyway without Obama's gifts to the GOP, the feckless Stupid Committee, the choice of Rattner and team that cut far too many UAW jobs in saving GM and Chrysler (the negotiations were not with the GOP, but with Wall Street), demanding section 2101, pushing the TTP, refusing to prosecute banksters, etc.

None of these were the result of withering opposition from the GOP. They were his decisions executed by his teams.
 
 
+1 # punch 2012-09-28 03:26
To mention a good thing that happened from the current presidency shouldn't be trampled down. But the reason it happens is that it's often accompanied by apologism for Obama and the "lesser of two evils" argument, and that is not a good thing.

The system is broken and the two party system is at the center of this. Google "Stop me before I vote again" (a series of articles that can be read online). Quote:

"Republicans and Democrats alike have concentrated for three decades on mincing ever more finely an ever-shrinking repertoire of political ideas. No, "ideas" is too strong a word; "slogans" or "catchphrases" is more accurate. The result has been what I call the "ratchet effect"; in each election, both parties dance cheek-to-cheek a little farther to the right, but somehow, even when they get into office, the Democrats never manage, or even try, to move us back to the Left. The system operates in one direction only; and it is crucial for Democratic voters to understand that their "lesser evil" votes are actively promoting this process, not retarding it."

To put it bluntly I can use this parable:
[cont'd]
 
 
0 # punch 2012-09-28 03:28
Here's the parable:

Let's say criminals handed you a gun and threatened to kill your kids if you yourself didn't kill your spouse. In that situation I would refuse to do it, and let any killing be on the shoulders of the criminals. I would take no part in it, even if I was 100% sure that they would do as they said. The only moral thing to do would be to fight, even if I had no chance of overpowering the criminals. So would you kill your spouse in that situation, to spare the lives of your kids?
 
 
+5 # punch 2012-09-28 03:41
More from "Stop Me Before I Vote Again", and here is the link to this article: http://smithbowen.net/linfame/stopme/chapter02.html

"Here's how it works. In every election year, the Democrats come and tell us that the country has moved to the right, and so the Democratic Party has to move right too in the name of realism and electability. Gotta keep these right-wing madmen out of the White House, no matter what it takes.

(Actually, they don't say they're going to move to the right; they say they're going to move to the center. But of course it amounts to the same thing, if you're supposed to be left of center. It's the same direction of movement.)

So now the Democrats have moved to the "center." But of course this has the effect of shifting the "center" farther to the right.

Now, as a consequence, the Republicans suddenly don't seem so crazy anymore -- they're closer to the center, through no effort of their own, because the center has shifted closer to them. So they can move even further right, and still end up no farther from the "center" than they were four years ago.

In fact, the Democrats' rightward shift not only enables the Republicans to move farther right themselves; it actually compels them to do so, if they want to maintain their identity as the angry-white-guy party par excellence."
 
 
-1 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 11:19
Thank you.
 
 
+2 # mollyklein 2012-09-28 04:12
nscrupulous rhetoric of stereotype, reliant on the triggering of snticommie mythology and cartoonish imagery of "the left" with which Aaron Sorkin and big media inundate us. This combined fearmongering and ridicule has been for many decades one if the most effective instruments for status quo maintenance. The situation of all of humanity would be such better now had more of the American progressive liberals had the spine and critical capacity to resist the seduction and bullying of this kind four years ago and back Clemente and McKinney. A strong showing for soc dem politics, a population rejecting the good cop bad cop terroristic manipulations, and four years of the Palin show would have undoubtedly found us much less emphatically on the terrorized retreat begging for our lives like hostages (Please Obama we will let you do whatever you want to Hondurans and pot smokers if you just won't leave us nice California schwartenegger voting decents at the mercy of these mad crackers) than now. At some point this illusion of moderate reasonable refomist wall street party must end and anyone still clinging to it after Obama admin's destruction of the constitutional order and assertion is of despotic power should be written off by pro humanity forces as an apologist whose purpose is to attack the left in defense of the ruling elite and its courtiers.
 
 
0 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:24
exactly.
 
 
+2 # mollyklein 2012-09-28 04:14
Cont'd... The loss if legitimacy the proprietor class has suffered was sealed by the execution of Troy Davis as a President who claims the right to order the assassination of every executioner and prison guard on earth stood by closing he had no power to interfere. People will no longer fall for this as the preservation of "compassion" from the clown cast to take a dive in this electoral contest and because of this awakening all the energies of petty bourgeois professional culture producer eloquence are released to abuse and ridicule and smear those heretics as impure selfish profligate
 
 
0 # ericsongs 2012-09-28 04:55
Ya know somethin' folks? It is possible to bend over so far backwards, that you do irreparable damage to your spine; resulting in paralysis.

Something about Rebecca's article triggered the memory of an old dialogue that may be appropriate to note here.
The following is transcribed from the 1967 movie titled "Lenny Bruce".

"- You're trying to stop the information!
[Bailiff, will you remove this man from the courtroom? Court adjourned!]
..the information keeps the country strong!
You need the deviate! Don't shut him up!
You need that madman to stand up, tell you when you're blowing it!
The harder you come down on him, the more you need him!
Please! Don't take away my words! They're just words! l'm not hurting anybody!
[He was found guilty in New York and sentenced to four months, right?]"
 
 
+5 # seeuingoa 2012-09-28 05:08
In politics you take and give, and hope you find the right balance.

Of course Obama has been doing something
good and something bad.

But the bad things are so fundamentally bad, that they totally overshadow
whatever positive things he has achieved.

That´s the problem for former
supporters of Obama.

There is no, absolutely no excuse for
indefinite detention and kill list.
 
 
-1 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:21
agreed and that is not t o mention privatizing health care for the rest of time.
 
 
+6 # eldoryder 2012-09-28 05:18
I have always considered myself to be a "left-leaning liberal", but realized after the McGovern blowout loss (I worked on that campaign), that the larger segment of America will NEVER vote for anyone who "scares them".

ANY candidate running on a pure, left-leaning progressive policy campaign will LOSE, because most low-information voters don't understand the various political policies in general. Our goals SCARE them.

So even though the Presidential candidates I have worked for all seem to be too centrist compared to ME, it is incremental results I want from them, the kind they can get passed, rather than the ones that will never see the light of day in this partisan atmosphere.

When it comes to President Obama, I know fully well where his many faults lie. This does not dissuade me from giving my support, as I am only interested in ONE thing, should he be re-elected.

That would be his chance to possibly nominate TWO more centrist Supreme Court justices over the next four years. The impact of changing the balance on the SC will outlive the actions of the next 4 presidents.

For all you sniping about staying home, or voting Green or Nader, please consider this. WHOM do you want assigning the next two SC Justices for Life? Romney or President Obama?

It's just that simple. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
 
 
-1 # Independentgal 2012-09-28 08:32
Excellent comment! This should persuade folks more than anything that a vote vote for Obama, rather than a 3rd party candidate, will be the best thing to do. Let's not forget that there is always the specter of what the votes for Nader in Florida did for the country in 2000. If that's not enough to persuade left wing folks to vote for Obama, then they should be prepared to take some of the blame for a fascist, oligarchic, theocratic sate should Romney be elected.
 
 
-3 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:20
I normally would agree with you, but unfortunately it will just delay change. The world is run, and the US in particular, by an elite body of financeers who want to be sure that the US doesn't turn socialist as did Europe (more or less - in any case there is no big money to be made there.) If we don't stop what we are doing and turn and fight them, we will have business as usual infinitely. Did you ever consider that "They" put Obama in so private health care could be insured forever? Health care for profit, along with every other decision in government today. Think of who and what that leaves out.
 
 
-1 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:21
No, no, it's about the money. Republicans will fight tooth and nail to keep their resources intact.. honestly, my two or three friends left have told me this point blank.
 
 
-2 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 13:23
eldoryder, i agree with much of what you wrote (and am also old enough to remember the McGovern campaign) but not at all with the idea that progressive goals scare most americans.

It all depends on how you ask and frame the questions and the debate. If you ask do you support all americans having access to affordable, high quality health care" the vast majority agree. If you ask "do you support assistance to poor single-mothers with children" again the vast majority agree. This goes for virtually all of the major "progressive" questions and goals. the real problem for me is that at least since McGovern progressives and the dems as a whole have been their own worst enemies and more often than not shoot themselves in the foot (if not the head)...e.g., when the t-party emerged, instead of reaching out to the base and realizing that in many ways they shared progressive's displeasure with how gov't works and who it works for "we" wrote them all off as right-wing nuts leaving them no place to go but the ultra-right. So, much of the fault i think lies with ourselves and not the american people as a whole.
 
 
-1 # beeyl 2012-09-28 22:00
I think your thesis is contradicted by Obama's own campaign 4 years ago, which was guided by people and speechwriters and filled with rhetoric and promises much more progressive than his presidency has been. And every time he voiced true liberal spirit 4 years ago, it didn't scare nearly as many people as it fired up. Do you remember the boost in his numbers and the overwhelmingly positive reaction people had regarding his "Enough!" line at the convention?

And regarding his future judicial appointments, I'd first say that Elena Kagen is hardly a liberal dream appointment. Second, I'd remember Obama's excellent choice for head of OLC, Dawn Johnsen, who'd been openly critical of Bush's OLC for giving the thumbs up on torture: Obama left her nomination hanging in the Senate for over a year, and then had to re-nominate her, but by then it was clear she didn't really have his support, so she withdrew. Third, IMO, anyone who votes for retroactive immunity just doesn't understand the purpose of a justice system.

Will you admit that the Tea Party successfully pulled the politics of this country to the right these past 3.5 years? Will you admit that their success is partly due to how demanding they are that GOP politicians be faithful to their philosophy, which has meant primary defeats of a number of incumbent Republicans who were likely unbeatable by a Dem in the election?

So why can't being demanding work for us, to pull Obama leftward?
 
 
+3 # ThePigman 2012-09-28 05:26
"O rancid sector of the far left"

Come on, you don't really expect people to read past that gem do you?
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 08:22
I think the problem is that too many people DIDN'T read past it.
 
 
-1 # RobertMStahl 2012-09-28 06:31
What would it have been like to have avoided the contamination of the politics of damage control? Steiner, an ecologically minded person of the last century, said the worst evil took the form of Ahriman, a 50/50 proposition (i.e. incapable of any leap in understanding). What did Saul Bellow mean with the title of his last book, "More Die of Heartbreak" when he was murdered, slowly, afterward, just as promised by Gus Alex in 1976? The system is corrupt, but as Francisco J. Varela points out through progress in education that 'contains' the leap in understanding Bellow was pointing to, we cannot deny our political souls. Only, these fish have had their fish bowls removed and they are flopping on the shores of empire, alone. Where is Indira Singh?
 
 
-2 # TerriLee500 2012-09-28 06:49
STOP INCREMENTALISM NOW!

This election the strongest collective acton leftists can take is to BOYCOTT to delegitimize our war government as they did in Belarus this past week.

Do not consent to tyranny!

In 2012 ELECTIN DISSENTERS have organized!

Join us at www.electionboycott2012.org


We're on FB and Twitter too.
 
 
-2 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:04
Yeah! The revolution has begun. I'm in!
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 11:02
Hope you're ready for the armed response from President Romney.
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 13:26
By "incrementalism " what you're refering to is "REALITY". You can't stop the reality that no election EVER gives you more than an incremental change by wishing it away.
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 13:28
By the way, KARL ROVE couldn't have said it better.
 
 
0 # cordleycoit 2012-09-28 07:19
The problem is found it is called process addiction. The Liberal mind is generally over informed and not equipped to act on the information that torrents out of the political fray. There is no question that the right is dull mined lazy and brutal.
The left is unable to see reality, then carry out actions to make real change. They elect machine politicians like Obama and are disappointing when these ego driven monsters cannot deliver.
We are lucky we are a republic not a democracy. We would still be ruled by rail road barons instead of the information controlling media, banking interests and police oriented Koch Bros and their minions. We are subjects not citizens.
 
 
-1 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:01
I gave you a thumbs up but it seems as if the readership here is in a bubble daze of bliss and doesn't want to see the truth. Thank you for your post.
 
 
+1 # pernsey 2012-09-28 08:09
This is just an article for the cry baby right wingers to have their little bash Obama fest. I read some of these comments and they are hysterical. The Fox news crew are having their day at RSN LOL!

I was going to give a serious response, but thought the better of it, the last thing I want to do is try to explain things to the right wing bubble Fox news crowd, I got a full day ahead of me, so no thanks.
 
 
0 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 10:00
....something comes to mind about pigs and pearls...;)
 
 
-1 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-28 11:29
You just explained the curious thumbs downs that many of us have received.
 
 
-7 # politicaleconomist 2012-09-28 09:47
This comment like virtually all comments ignores history and its dynamics. The ultimate straw man argument is repeatedly trotted out every 4 years: choose this person because he will do less harm.
To counter this I ask you consider the following: HOW MUCH BETTER OFF WE WOULD BE IF MCCAIN HAD WON THE ELECTION. I have posed this question to numerous people and only a few people have thought about it enough to understand that we could be better off even way better off if McCain had won. No one knows of course. But few people have ever thought critically about the dynamics of history. Seeing the present as a moment in history is not what the elite, the establishment, the 1%, the corporate media -- however you want to label those who control the Boundaries of Acceptable Discourse (the BAD)-- wants us to think.
Unfortunately, this article is well within the BAD. Again, this just means that it is a well intentioned, surface-touchin g article. Sorry, that's just the truth.
 
 
+4 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 09:59
I firmly believe the right wing wants to control everything that has money on it for business and for several reasons. But when UPS was asked to deliver the U S Mail, about 20 years ago, they said flatly, "No." They said that no one could do that job better than the PO and they would have to charge a whole lot more to make a profit. THINK ABOUT THAT when you want to privatize everything!
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 11:03
Ask any athelete if they'd rather lose than win by 1 point.
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-09-28 10:03
I've thought about it and I think McCain would have instigated a war with Iran ALREADY. I also think we wouldn't even be discussing a draw down of troops in Afghanistan or even Iraq.

I also think we'd be a lot closer to the privatization of Social Security and Medicare already.

I also think that instead of Sotomayor and Kagan, McCain would have nominated two more Scalia clones.

I also think a few right-wingers would have retired specifically for this purpose.

This is called strategy. Do you think Karl Rove thinks it's ever preferable to lose?
 
 
-2 # politicaleconomist 2012-09-28 18:08
One of your conclusions is clearly mistaken. The rest is very doubtful.
Your analysis is typical and falls into the category of political game theory. I know it is difficult to think outside of the BAD. Will discuss this more with you if you want. But first I would ask you to try to think historically and think of the economic dynamic that was in place in 2008.
 
 
+2 # Skyelav 2012-09-28 09:57
Most people who complain want that intelligent empathy she mentions and urges us all to embrace. But in this article, instead of demonstrating such empathy, her message to those who would share their complaints about Obama or other Dems is, "Please stop, I've heard it a thousand times, I already know what you're going to say, and you're just being an idealistic narcissist." And that's not going to make anyone feel less aggrieved or disgruntled.

Yes, and isn't it the complainers' jobs to point out the facts instead of enabling the bliss in wishful thinking? Maybe this year we'll get so and so. WHile all the time we know that the world's elite are running the world and those are the people we should be fighting against instead of each other. Next time you meet a complainer, say, "Thank you, let me get a pen and note down your thoughts," and see what happens.
 
 
-3 # DerProfessor 2012-09-28 10:02
Thank you, Ms. Solnit, for your common-sense call for the left to move away from the "my way or the highway" rigidity that has paralyzed the polity and made it incapable of coherent progress. I especially appreciate your comment that "bitching is the only acceptable coin of the realm." I grow weary of the endless "ain't it awful" discussions, where we are all expected to throw our hands in the air in despair. Do we imagine that despair is somehow useful?

Perhaps the thinking, or lack of it, on both the left and right, is a manifestation of the binary mind-set of the American public. We have been raised on a simplistic view of society as white hats/black hats through incessant TV and movie-watching, until we have foolishly begun to believe that this is an accurate reflection of reality. If you're not with us, you're against us, and you have to be with us ALL THE WAY or your loyalty is suspect--which means you're one of THEM! AH!

This viewpoint is comfortably simple and demands very little thought. Unfortunately for posterity, we are now at a point in history where cogent thought is priceless.
 
 
+1 # jljohann 2012-09-28 10:03
Thank you Rebecca for the inspiring thoughts. I have been one of those indifferent, belittling pessimists for too long now. You have allowed me to see the futility of focusing on what doesn't work and to begin having faith in what does. Growth seems to have its way in its own time utilizing both good and bad. I will trudge the road through differences of opinions with compassion which hopefully leads to the compatibility meant for the good of all of us.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-09-28 10:05
Nicely written li'l parable-like tome but just a teensy-bit patronizing, or is that just me?
I think it can be summed up -as a furriner- in précis form thus.
The "Left" has been practically obliterated in the USA since WW11 and what you are stuck with is a Center-right (Democrats) or a far right (Rethugs). So be grateful for all the little gains of the 60' and 70's which are gradually being eroded in a move back to a medievalist mentality and eventually a one-party system as envisioned by the likes of Rove and the Koch's.
So just ignore the ongoing wars and current drumbeats for more, the pollution of the planet by the military and allied industries and the suppression of what is left of individual liberty at home, the still-criminal healthcare non-system, overloaded prisons for minor offenses, crumbling infrastructure and refusal to think or look ahead even minimally progressively and be pleased at the crumbs which are dropped from the rich man's table.
I already have a sense of gratitude for the planet we inhabit and try to live in a positive way (There seem to some with the attitude, on awaking on a beautiful day, think -"Ooh, well pay for this!") ergo I'm willing to fight like a tiger for my right to resist the forces of reaction to the last, as in Voltaire's M. Arouet's statenment, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
If we forget that, we're sunk. Gratitude does not negate outrage.
 
 
+7 # tonywicher 2012-09-28 11:28
Let me first compliment everyone on this thread for a very thoughtful discussion. Here is my viewpoint: Until now, Obama has been subservient to Wall Street and the military industrial complex, as all Democratic presidents have been since Kennedy was assassinated. We have not have a real Democrat, a Roosevelt Democrat since. What we have now are called neoliberals - Wall Street, National Security State Democrats. What we need and should aim for is real Democrats in the White House and Congress. But still, there are significant differences between the two parties, and we blur them at our peril. To all who have come to understand that 9/11 was engineered by the Bush Administration, I say remember, 9/11 was done by Bush and the Neocons, NOT by the Neoliberals. It is true that by not prosecuting the crimes of Bush and by continuing Bush Admininistratio n policies, the Obama administration has become complicit in 9/11, torture and war crimes. I knew about 9/11 when I voted for Obama in 2008 and I knew he said that he was going to "look forward" and sweep the crimes of Bush (including 9/11) under the rug, but I voted for him anyway in the "audacity of hope" that circumstances might arise that would turn him into a real Democrat, and force him to take on Wall Street and the CIA and reveal the facts about 9/11. So far that sure hasn't happened, and hope that it will in the next four years (Audacity of Hope II: Change You Can Believe In This Time) is pretty hard to muster. (Cont)
 
 
+7 # tonywicher 2012-09-28 11:52
However, in the very crititcal situation in which we find ourselves, with world war looming, the election of Romney would be a disaster, and "9/11 truthers" of whom I count myself a senior member had better think carefully. Who did 9/11? Neocons around Bush did. Where are they now? Around Romney. They can't wait to get back in and finish what they started with 9/11. Consider this: we have been trying to convince good and intelligent and educated people such as those on this thread about what really happened on 9/11, and after eleven years many of them still think we're crazy. I do feel like we have been making progress, however. But if all these intelligent people are still in the dark, do you suppose Obama and Clinton might still be in the dark too? In other words they are being the fed the same disinformation as the rest of the public? That would explain a lot. In other words, Obama is president now, but even if he and Clinton have good intentions, they are getting bad information from treacherous sources and acting on it - just like the rest of the American people. If that is true, there is always the possibility that circumstances could cause them to become enlightened. The murder of Ambassador Stevens is such a circumstance. The 14 minute hate video clip was produced by Islamophobes around Romney, people like John Bolton, who would like to be Romney's Secretary of State. But this was just the start of the operation. (Continued)
 
 
+5 # ericsongs 2012-09-28 12:30
Quoting tonywicher:
Who did 9/11? ... do you suppose Obama and Clinton might still be in the dark too? ... they are getting bad information from treacherous sources ... there is always the possibility that circumstances could cause them to become enlightened ... Bolton, who would like to be Romney's Secretary of State. But this was just the start of the operation. (Continued)

When I saw the upper portion of the tower leaning during the collapse and subsequently NOT continue in the direction of that inertia, I knew something was terribly wrong with this picture. Keep beating the drum for the rest of us, Tony. Thank you for your courageous stand. And your brethren, too.
 
 
+5 # tonywicher 2012-09-28 12:45
It's amazing how many people believe the government instead of their own lying eyes!
 
 
+5 # tonywicher 2012-09-28 12:10
They then activated their assets among the Islamic extremists to incite riots using the video as a pretext. While this was going on, Ambassador Steven was brought to an unprotected consulate in Benghazi and an Al Qaeda hit squad led by a senior terrorist who actually fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan named Sufyan bin Qumu. This guy was captured and sent to Guantanamo in 2003 and then, even though he was an identified close bin Laden associate, released in 2007 to the Gaddafi government, of all things. He was then released in 2010 by Gaddafi as part of some amnesty (a bad move - Gaddafi must have been losing it by then) and then helped NATO overthrow Gaddafi in 2011. He's obviously a CIA asset working for working for its treasonous Neocon branch that did 9/11. I hope Obama and Clinto really care enough about who murdered their good ambassador to really get to the bottom of it. But maybe they could start firing some people and getting in others that would give them better information.

To sum up I would say - vote for Obama, and also organize to put pressure on him to break up Wall Street and the CIA in his next term. Oppose war with every drop of your blood, but don't forget where the biggest danger lies. Webster Tarpley is organizing an Anti-Austerity conference in NYC on Oct 27 from noon to 6 PM at 56 Walker Street Tribeca Manhattan NYC. Be there or be square!!!
 
 
-2 # cafetomo 2012-09-28 12:16
Poetry and inspiration. Notice the degree to which it has gotten noticed. We can aspire to such eloquence in our meager efforts here, or accept a role as recipients of a coherent understanding by incorporating it in action. What say we suspend our habitual parsing of generalities and consider what an actual positive difference would be, could be, in ourselves, for the benefit of this and those around us.
 
 
+3 # margpark 2012-09-28 16:19
One can sit out the election if one likes. One can vote for the Libertarian or the Green Party or none of the above.
I am not oblivious to Obama's faults as a president but I will vote for him as the better of the two candidates, one of whom will win.
 
 
+2 # Doll 2012-09-28 18:57
I am late in this comment thread that maybe no one will read it. Still, this is the best article I have read in a very long time. We need to face up to our negativity and our demand for perfection. "Perfection is not a reality."

There seems to be a more or less equal split between the "liberal perfectionists" and the "Can't we just get along" crowd.

This article was posted on Common Dreams too.

On Common Dreams, the commentors were mostly Obama bashers for what he failed to do. They forgot how people were arrested for having the wrong T-shirts, bumper stickers etc at the Bush "Extravaganzas"

I, for one, wish to never go back to the Bush years. How about you?
 
 
-1 # TomThumb 2012-09-28 19:12
Rebecca, it sounds like you are explaining things to us. However, I enjoyed the piece, and you are right, sometimes our griping grossly gets in the way of getting anything done.

As far as activists, I would disagree, and posit there are more than two questions. The two questions you mentioned are the final ones. First, you must have a worldview, an ideology, or whatever, that explain what is happening. The second is to take stock of what is happening and orient yourself.
Now, one may think one should have this before ever becoming an activist, but in the light of changing situations, they always need to be re-evaluated for consistency with reality. Tommy Rimes
 
 
+1 # LeftDave 2012-09-28 20:02
I agree with much of the reasoning here, but I think it's a stretch to refer to leftist cynicism about "the lesser of 2 evils" as voter suppression. It's one thing to verbally discourage someone from voting and quite another to actually stop people from being able to vote, from even having the choice, as the right does. I believe that Romney must be stopped and I plan to do labor walks with my union to help Obama. I am going to follow the polls in my state. If it looks close I'll pull the lever for Obama. If it looks like it's a lock for Obama, I'll vote for a 3rd party candidate. I'd also be careful about using terms like "far left." Are you talking about the left which would include Marxists or are you talking about divisive ultra-left groups that provoke clashes with those they perceive as rival left groups? It's not unreasonable for someone who has qualms about Obama's failings but recognizes the dangers that Romney poses to vote for a 3rd party left candidate if she/he lives in a state where Obama's victory is all but assured. I believe it's important for the left to be heard, to have a voice. I'll look and see if voting for my preferred candidate will put Obama in danger of losing and, if not, I'll vote for my preferred candidate. If, on the other hand, my vote is needed in a close race, I'll vote for Obama. Defeating Romney and what he represents is the most important thing at this point.
 
 
+1 # tonywicher 2012-09-29 16:01
I think this is fair enough. Just remember that voting by itself is a small matter; the important thing is to keep up the pressure on Obama to take on the Wall Street and the CIA instead of being subservient as he has been in his first term. Check out the anti-austerity conference to be held October 27 from noon to 6pm at 56 Walker Street Tribeca Manhattan NYC. We need to organize a coalition of progressive groups to pressure for changes to the Obama economic and foreign policies of the first term.
 
 
-1 # Innocent Victim 2012-09-29 19:16
I admit I have read only the 1st third of Ms Solnit's rather lengthy essay on the good and the bad of our politicians and politics. I think I understand her point of view.

What she misunderstands is that we are not living in a flawed democracy under the rule of law, led by honorable but rather mistaken people. We are living in a despotism, a state in which the chief executive has assumed absolute power over life and death, war and peace. The legislative branch has remained passive while the nation's wealth was and continues to be distributed to corporate criminals. The judiciary has given authority to illegality and violations of the Constitution they are sworn to protect. Briefly, our government is illegitimate. It does not derive from the consent of the governed. It is corrupted beyond any mechanisms of repair.

This is the background against which Ms. Solnit would have us recognize the few good acts of very bad people.
 
 
0 # rhgreen 2012-09-30 09:34
Very good badly needed wisdom. Half a loaf is better than none, and what portion of a loaf would we get with Mitt Romney? Come on, people, grow up!
 
 
0 # HPPSINC 2012-09-30 23:30
Amen!
 
 
0 # psutton22208@gmail.com 2012-10-01 04:11
Thank you for helping me see the uselessness of my own self-righteous indignation with Obama's faults. There was a lot of good truth in this piece.
 
 
0 # stonecutter 2012-10-01 16:31
I think this is a trenchant essay that does "explain" a great deal in a penetrating, illuminating style, and frankly, many of the people who flock to this site and comment here, who expend enormous energy to merely denigrate the president and/or the GOP as grandiosely as possible without offering too much in the way of rational alternatives, would do well to read Ms. Solnit's essay. Someone above said we live in the "real world", and frankly, that observation can't be overstated.

The "Art" in The Art of Compromise is finding the elusive nexus between underlying moral principle and the machinery of hardball policy implementation in a severely polarized political atmosphere. That's what governing is supposed to be about, capice? Agreed, Obama is no FDR for many reasons, nor does he have the ruthless political instincts and skill of an LBJ or even a Ronald Reagan; yet he also had the galactic double whammy of becoming (perhaps naively) the first elected black president in a still virulently racist nation, and walking into the economic tree shredder of this Depression ("Recession"?.. nah). Considering those two mountains he's still climbing, he's handled himself pretty damn well; as Ms. Solnit observes, "perfect is the enemy of the good".

@LeftDave,
For what it's worth, I think your comment above is equally exceptional, cogent, and a welcome, satisfying intellectual counterpoint to some of Ms. Solnit's observations.
 
 
0 # DavidStevens 2012-10-03 09:52
Thank you, Rebecca. Thoughtfully and beautifully stated.

I have two thoughts to share in return:

1. I am continually grateful to my friends and colleagues further to the radical left than I. They help me to remember what I would truly like to see happen and not to become complacent. I heard Alice Walker on Democracy Now! last week and while she expressed respect for President Obama, she did not say that she would be voting for him.

2. I heard Noam Chomsky say something in 2004 that I found insightful. He said that in considering voting Democrat vs. third party, you should spend no more than 5 minutes on the decision, then get started on the REAL WORK of social change which often has little to do with national politics.

Peace.
 

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