If you have "no place to go," come here!

Fucked if we do, fucked if we don't: do career "progressives" prefer it this way?

vastleft's picture

I'm not sure if it's a universal human thing, an American thing, or just a "progressive" thing. But most folks in the leftysphere and related real-world circles demonstrate a complete inability to acknowledge when we're being offered a choice of two hideous or meaningless options. Nor do they fuss much about the unacceptability of any process that makes such futile (or worse) choices the only "pragmatically" available outcomes.

We are easily led to believe there is a vital difference between Democrats and Republicans. Between "public option" and no "public option."*

Particularly laughable was the Arkansas Democratic senatorial primary, which pitted an Obama-endorsed candidate against one that promoted as way to make "suffer" those "Democrats who side with corporate interests to block President Obama's agenda." Heads we support Obama's agenda (and what an agenda it is!), tails we support Obama's agenda. This much hasn't hung in the balance since Bud Bowl I.

Glenn Greenwald, in a generally cogent debunking of one increasingly popular excuse for Obama's continuation and expansion of rightwing policies — that the Presidency isn't really a powerful pulpit — founds his case on the latter two faux-vital issues. It doesn't make him wrong, but it's yet another measure of the fundamental pointlessness of today's "progressive" politics, where well-promoted and utterly meaningless options distract us from the fact that, and the process by which, meaningful policy options are removed from the equation.

No [no-glossary]Serious Person[/no-glossary] concerns him or herself with this problem. Not one.

No [no-glossary]Serious Person[/no-glossary] will explain why leading career "progressives" routinely distract us — and rake in donations — with advocacy for one side or other of fucked-if-we-do / fucked-if-we-don't kabuki shows. (It seems that it's usually the losing side, not that it matters in any way, shape, or form, except perhaps to keep fueling underdog energy, urgency, and donations).

Glenn does first-rate work on exposing Obama's assaults on civil liberties. But he's simply not going to bust open hoaxes like "public option" if it means putting the Jane Hamshers and Digbys** in a bad light for peccadilloes like helping deflate liberal support for single-payer Medicare for All.

Tribal elders simply matter more than policy.***

The good news (for the [no-glossary]Serious People)[/no-glossary] is that, as long as we can be distracted with one fucked-either-way horse race after another, we'll never notice.


Note: one might argue that Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton was such a choice. If there's anything constructive to be learned from that discussion, rock on, but let's not let that distract from acknowledging that three more-recent feverish battles were indeed fucked-either-way choices promoted with great urgency by "progressive" leading lights.


* Of course, the vital difference between "public option" and no "public option" lost its vitality when it was time to celebrate a Heritage Foundation / WellPoint authored HCR bill devoid of this placebo policy). That's the beauty part of teaching Pavlov's "progressives" to salivate over meaningless goals. It's easier to console yourself at a requiem for a phantom, than at the loss of a meaningful policy.

** Links available if there's (somehow) debate about whether Jane and Digby were on-board with the "public option" express and the marginalization of single-payer advocates.

*** Nota bene: When she was advocating for the meaningless "public option" (at the expense of single-payer advocacy), Jane Hamsher could do no wrong in "progressive" circles. When she took a stand against the sausage the HCR process ultimately extruded, she suddenly lost a lot of blogosphere friends. Because she was now taking the unacceptable stance of prioritizing policy over the tribal imperative of supporting and celebrating Obama's historically historic "reform."

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on


[W]ell-promoted and utterly meaningless options distract us from the fact that, and the process by which, meaningful policy options are removed from the equation.

No Serious Person concerns him or herself with this problem. Not one.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

I never EVER read them anymore.

Just when you think a person like Glenn Greenwald is getting close to the issue, he'll chicken out at the last minute, as you pointed out.

I generally refuse to give any of them my clicks or my attention. Once an opinionator has proven to have been epically wrong on an extremely important issue, that makes me run away. (Note: this includes post-election wrongness as well as pre-election wrongness. If a blogger has admitted that he/she was wrong about Obama, but still continues to flag kabuki issues, I'm outta there.)

As you can imagine, the list of people I read now is pretty darned small.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

He does a lot of valuable work, and he's the most intellectually honest A-lister I could name (I admit the competition isn't what I once thought it was).

But there are few rocks he won't turn over.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

One boulder he doesn't seem to even see is sexism.

It makes him very hard to read. On the one hand I want to take him by the lapels and shake him to make his insights on bigotry slosh over to the whole rest of the human race. On the other hand, I'll be awed at how thoroughly he debunks some new bunk, and wish I could write like that.

S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

Let's not let being "totally screwed", be the enemy of being "absolutely reamed"

There is a distinct and important difference.

This Message Brought to You by the:

"Duh...Obama is better than Bush...and Hillary would of been a terrible Prez...and can you believe Edwards...what a phony...and look at the angry "TeaBaggers"....hey there goes Sarah Palin"

Committee to re-elect Obama to Bush's fourth term.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

It's really not funny except in a *sob* kind of way, but ... 'Let's not let being "totally screwed", be the enemy of being "absolutely reamed"' ... frrhrx! ... *snort!*

Submitted by Anne on

blind spot when it comes to the kabuki that went on at FDL (he did, after all, found “Accountability Now” with Jane, and AN rallied support for the Halter campaign in Arkansas), I think Glenn’s main points in his most recent posts are much more about the wagons that have been circled around Obama by many of the so-called pundits:

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait -- vocal Iraq War cheerleader (from a safe distance) who works for a magazine whose declared editorial mission is to have Joe Lieberman's worldview "once again guide the Democratic Party" -- has written yet another lecture chiding liberals for unfair and irrational discontent with his beloved leader. Peter Connolly -- a D.C. lobbyist and telecom lawyer for Holland & Knight -- published a screed this weekend at The Huffington Post condemning progressives who are mounting primary challenges against conservative Democratic incumbents for creating a terribly unjustified "civil war" in the Democratic Party, which, after all, is led by what he called that "unabashed liberal" Barack Obama. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter -- the first known mainstream pundit to explicitly call for torture in the wake of the 9/11 attack and one of the creepiest Obama loyalists around -- has been running around the country promoting his book by spouting "the typical warmed over Village sentiments, particularly as it relates to liberal critics of the President."

Lanny Davis published a column this weekend arguing that "the Left" is a threat to good Democratic principles and that Obama should "Sister Souljah" progressives who are criticizing him. The New York Times' conservative columnist Ross Douthat even adopts their script today by pronouncing liberal disenchantment with Obama to be "bizarrely disproportionate" and grounded in unrealistic expectations of Obama. And a whole slew of other, similar Obama-defending Democratic Party loyalists (Jon Chait, Ezra Klein, Jonathan Bernstein) -- for whom the excuses of "not-enough-time-yet" and "Pragmatism" are now dry wells -- have together invented a new one: none of this is Obama's fault because the Presidency is so weak and powerless (though Klein, to his credit, accurately acknowledges that that excuse is "less true on foreign policy than on domestic policy").

So the homogeneous Party loyalists who cheered for Bush's invasion of Iraq, who spend their time privately railing together against those misguided liberal critics, have all magically come forward in unison, with the same script, to decree that The Left's discontent with the President is so terribly shrill, unrealistic, unfair, and unSerious. The same trite pundits who reflexively ingest and advocate whatever the political establishment spits out are announcing that criticisms of the President are so unfair. Jon Chait, Jon Bernstein, Jon Alter, Lanny Davis, Peter Connolly, Ross Douthat and friends know what good Progressives must do -- with their track record, who could possibly disagree? -- and that's be grateful for the President we have and to refrain from all this chattering, irrational, purist negativity. Meanwhile, the administration does one thing after the next along the lines of what it's doing to Mohamed Hassan Odaini, rendering these You-Leftists-are-so-UnSerious sermons no more impressive or worthwhile than when the same unfailingly wrong establishment spokespeople, driven by exactly the same mentality, were spouting them back in 2003.

Yes, Glenn’s focus has been on civil liberties, but what’s emanating from the pundit class has little to do, really, with that aspect of things. For whatever reason, they seem to think it is their duty to stifle, via lectures and finger-wagging, and tsk-tsking, the righteous anger that people are feeling and expressing, and characterize it as unhelpful, immature and disloyal – and they are doing it in a very condescending way that is an insult to the intelligence.

The choices we are being given suck, no question. And one of the reasons they suck is that we have a media and a pundit class that are little more than handmaidens, catering to the wealthy and powerful.

We all know the deal with Jane Hamsher, we know what she did and didn’t do, we know she’s still paying the odious Jason Rosenbaum; that Glenn has a blind spot about that doesn’t change that he is right about the latest campaign to shut down the voices of dissent by treating us like childen who must be shushed because the grown-ups are speaking, sent to the corner to think about our behavior and told not to come out until we can behave.

It’s all making me pretty sick.

Submitted by Anne on

whole thing, of course, is that because Glenn can be so credible on so many other issues, it's just too easy for his Hamsher-like framing of the public option to garner credibility it didn't deserve.

I often wonder whether he would have made the same arguments had he not gone into partnership with Jane on Acountability Now (terrible name - all I hear in my head is Frank Costanza shouting "Serenity Now!"); it's a troubling blind spot for someone whose vision is generally pretty good.

Submitted by lambert on

At least at the top levels, where it's possible to actually have a career, is it necessary to attribute to tribal leader- and followership what could adequately be explained by funding?

I'm not saying the two factors contradict, mind you, or that the interplay between the two isn't complex -- some posters (you instance Glenn) are a lot better than others and, after all, it's always possible that, for any given post, any poster actually believes what they're writing, beyond instrumentality -- but it would be interesting to see your views on the interaction.

One of the reasons I'm skeptical of a labor third party, for example, unless the locals really drove it, is that SEIU was a prime mover and funder behind the public option Trojan Sparkle Pony, and therefore bear great responsibility for the HCR debacle.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

pervasiveness and power.

Using religion as an example, tribe often creates attachments and obligations that overshadow even the most earthly needs.

So, I don't think the profit motive is necessarily the place to start, especially with people with demonstrable integrity.

Obviously, they're not mutually exclusive. One goes on the outs with certain people at great financial cost. Getting air time is a sign and benefit of being well-in with the "progressive" media/new media tribe.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

Some many Obama pushers are like, Biden was for ratcheting down the war, McChrystal was for the surge. Ah, not so fast. Biden was for using unmanned drones with wild abandon to continue the assualt. Biden isn't offering up the peace pipe here. The debate to me was like assault with more soldiers v. assault with more drones. A choice of two hideous options.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

McChrystal must resign now for disrespecting Obama in a time of war, he wrote.

Why would I waste my time on this crap? Obama can CERTAINLY take care of McChrystal's insubordination himself. And frankly, I could not care less what some puffed-up general said about this puffed-up President.

Sometimes I really think that almost everything in the world is about guys having a big-dick contest.

Then I remember that it's also about money.

gizzardboy's picture
Submitted by gizzardboy on

" the Arkansas Democratic senatorial primary, which pitted an Obama-endorsed candidate against one that promoted as way to make "suffer" those "Democrats who side with corporate interests to block President Obama's agenda."

I thought this was a bit of clever marketing. For many people who are not paying close attention, including many in the Obama Fan Base, the idea that they are supporting a candidate who supports Obama's adgenda might cause them to vote for said candidate. Obama can't say "That's not really my adgenda, even though I said it was."

Thanks to good ol' Bill Clinton and lots of corporate cash, and I guess it wasn't clever enough. Still, every time a blue dog has to squirm, Lincoln, Leieberman, Obama, Nelson and Baucus to name a few, it was an exercise worth doing.

And now Glenn Greenwald isn't pure enough, Ferchistsake! Do you think Hillary would have been the pure hearted liberal warrior? To my mind, the "fucked if you do, and fucked if you don't" applies to that choice, too.

Submitted by Anne on

Hillary supporters always knew the answer to (at least the ones, like me, who came to support her not as a frst choice), is another - and I think more important - question:

Given that we know Hillary was no pure-hearted liberal warrior, do you think it would have been easier to (1) hold her accountable for her policy decisions and (2) persuade her to move left on those that were too centrist or right-leaning?

I think the answer there is a resounding "yes,"on both counts: there is no one - that I can think of, anyway - in the media, and almost no one in the blogosphere who is or would be willing to make the kinds of excuses for her that have been made for Obama for the last 18 months. I doubt they would give her 10 seconds, much less 10 minutes, hours or months, before landing on her with both feet if she pulled even half the stunts Obama has.

Doesn't matter though: she's not the president. And I don't have a crystal ball to see what might have been; probably just as well - I might have a good idea just how bad things are going to get in the next little while, and so, like Scarlett O'Hara, I can put off thinking about that until "tomorrow."

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

You knew where you disagreed with her and where you agreed. She wasn't one to say one thing and do the opposite. If she did something you didn't agree with you knew why if you read her Senate floor speeches, etc.

It bothers me when I hear talk of "she's not a liberal". That may be the case (I don't see that), but if you paid any fucking attention at all during the primary you would have noticed her near constant assault on conserviativism. And it was an assault on the policy and principles of conservativism. As bad as people perceive her on the left, her campaign was essentially one of anti-Conservativism. Contrast that with the Republican "Ideas" Party that Obama's campaign talked so lovingly about.

Hate her if you want, but Hillary's domestic campaign was based on good ol' fashion FDR liberalism, from the gas tax holiday, to helping single mothers, to the most pro-gay rhetoric and policies.

The need for the left to insert a caveat about Hillary's evilness anytime something positive can be said about her reminds me a lot of how the OFB is forced to say nice things about Obama whenever you state a disagreement about his policy.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

so-called "Blue Dogs" and so-called "liberals" in Congress. When push comes to shove, they all line up behind the President, even when it means throwing their biggest constituencies to the wind. So really, it's all kabuki to a person like me.

Take Carolyn Maloney, a former fave of mine. She is really struggling in the polls this year. She is a solid feminist liberal Democrat, but her vote for ObamaCare, aka, her tacit endorsement of Obama's Executive Order preventing access to contraceptive services and abortion to millions of women, is really hurting her support amongst her natural constituents: liberal pro-choice women like me.

If a liberal pro-choice feminist Dem like Maloney can't be trusted to protect my interests, then I don't see how any Democrat would.

As for Greenwald, he is a pundit, not a politician like Hillary Clinton. Since he is not good on several issues I care about (including, as one commenter brought up, feminism), I choose not to read him most days, and I'm not the only one. And? Is there some way in which this extends to whether or not Hillary Clinton would be a pure-hearted liberal warrior?

I don't think so. And by the way, I don't believe anyone said that she would be.

gizzardboy's picture
Submitted by gizzardboy on

How do we relate to the political system as it exists?

One way is to say "to hell with it all -- a pox on all their houses!" The whole thing is kabuki. The liberals who you thought you could count on will take turns betraying their base, while most of the time sounding pretty good. When push comes to shove, the appropriate number will knuckle under so nothing important gets passed. If that is the way things are, try to get a third party going (if you like lost causes). Or just try to ignore the whole thing.

The above may be the truth of the matter, but history tells us that things do sometimes change. So a second way would be to lend some support to folks who, while not agreeing with your every belief and emphasis, are still by and large in agreement with you. So some of you see a flaw or two in Glenn Greenwald. I think he would have been the perfect new Supreme Court appointment (in my dreams). But even if that impossibility happened, sooner or later there would have been a decision by him that I could not agree with. So he would still be in my camp of good guys. Had Hillary been the presidential nominee, I would have voted for her, but I wouldn't have expected a whole lot. If memory serves, the last Clinton presidency was less than Nervana. I might have been pleasantly suprised. Chances are, we'll muddle through with whatever administration is bought and paid for by those with the deep pockets. If things get shitty enough the time for change may yet come -- or not. I'll help a few of the good guys out in my small way and tolerate a few differences in opinion with them and others who support them.

The third way would be to insist on such purity of belief and action that there might a dozen folks who really are in the right place, and maybe a couple of them you can't be sure of. So, pray tell, what are the ten or twelve of you going to get done?

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

1. If we don't see/make major changes, our political system is a lost cause.

2. I agree that Glenn Greenwald would be a huge upgrade over most anyone who's been short-listed for the Supreme Court in recent years.

3. I believe Hillary Clinton would have been a substantial upgrade over Obama on policy and messaging, but that's of course not setting the bar very high. In any case, I'd have an awfully hard time voting for a Democrat ever again. We've seen quite enough ratchet effect by now.

4. Our country suffers far more from excessive embrace of rotten politics, economics, and media than it does from excessive "purity." Yet "purity" -- notably, consistent values and respect for truth -- is an endlessly popular target for ridicule. I think we could stand to have a whole lot more purists in our politics and discourse. YMMV.