Go to previous post:
Jeanne D’Arc

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Take the nielsenhayden.com intelligence test!

Our Admirable Sponsors

November 7, 2002

Some weblog perspectives on Tuesday’s elections, not all in agreement but all worth a look. Start with Avedon Carol:
When I first moved [to the UK] and couldn’t watch baseball anymore, I was distracted by snooker, and particularly one amazing player named Jimmy White, who had a knack for doing things that were physically impossible. In post-match interviews, White, like most snooker players, is astonishingly humble, even when his performance has been utterly dazzling. When he loses, he usually says it’s because his opponent played better than he did, and when he wins, he doesn’t insult the competetion. The phrase he uses to describe the only thing that matters in winning goes something like this: “He did the business.”

The Republicans lied and cheated, and had non-stop free advertising from the mass media, and a lot of other things, but at the end of the day the real problem in this election was that the Democrats didn’t do the business. We knew in advance that the media was underplaying the election and distorting the issues. We knew that the only way to get our message out was if we did it. But did we? Or did we keep expecting that somehow the media would have an epiphany and do it for us?

Well, get real, folks. Tim Russert is not going to suddenly develop a conscience, GE is not going to magically decide that getting the truth out to the public via their network is a good thing after all. […]

If the media has gone over to the other side, and the party isn’t going to use their resources to inform the public, then the rest of us have to do it. Remember, the powerful have always had more access to the media than “the little guy” has—and we’ve always had to find alternative means to communicate with our peers. Create those flyers that explain the issues and why people should vote for your candidate. Hit the streets and distribute them. If you’re a good writer, post your text on the web so people can print up fliers from it. If you’re not a good writer, find someone else who is (on the ‘net or elsewhere) and ask if you can use their material. But for goodness’ sakes do the business, ‘cause if you don’t, nobody will.

James M. Capozzola:
It also is time to start taking the Republicans seriously. Yes, the Republican Party long ago was hijacked by representatives of the lunatic fringe and the vested aristocracy, groups that have succeeded in making their extremist agendas the standards with which all else is compared. Contempt for the right-wing party and its ideas or policies can be strangely satisfying on an intellectual level, but it is dangerous when it veers into hubris and it easily renders itself useless in politics.

When we fail to understand that Republicans and conservatives actually believe the words they say, believe them to be the truth, and intend to take action upon them, we yield the advantage to the other side. Lamenting the devastating effects talk radio and the talk radio culture have had upon our political discourse—and now on our polity as a whole—does little if anything to advance our cause. Millions of people are listening to talk radio every day and Democrats have not only failed to refute the lies and defamation it spreads, they seem incapable of even pretending to be able to speak the pidgin language of the medium.

Taking Republicans seriously does not mean giving credence to their morally and fiscally bankrupt platforms and policies. It means listening to their arguments, determining the messages they are sending, finding the reason voters respond, and then attacking them, vigorously and mercilessly, and exposing their lies, relentlessly and repeatedly, in a way that speaks to the real needs and interests of the American people.

Eric Alterman:
Let us note as well, that the roll-over-and-play-dead DLC strategy for the Democrats was a total dud. They lost the South and lost the Senate. Speaking of yesterday, let92s quote Paul Krugman again: “Of course, some pundits tell you that not much is at stake in this particular election, that the parties aren’t really very different on the issues. I don’t know what planet they are living on: in reality, the parties are further apart than they have been since the 1930’s. The fact that anyone imagines otherwise is a tribute to the timidity of the Democrats, who are afraid to say what they really think, and the subterfuge of the Republicans, who show a disciplined willingness to pretend to hold positions they actually abhor.” The reason for this, which I don92t think Krugman explained, are two:

1. Money
2. The so-called liberal media is actually in the pocket of conservatives.

And so we have a country that is to the left of the Democrats on the issues, but is run by people who are to the right of virtually every respectable right-wing party in Western Europe and beyond.

Tom Tomorrow:
Memo to the Democratic leadership: You’re called “leaders” for a reason. Sometimes you have to take what you fear may be an unpopular stand and try to, well, lead the public to your position. And you know what? Sometimes it may cost you your job. You wanted job security, you should have gone into another line of work.
Dwight Meredith:
1) Politics is never over;
2) Unity and discipline beat chaotic backbiting every single time;
3) Elections are won by occupying the center;
4) You do not beat something with nothing; and
5) Politics is about substantively improving people92s lives.
Jason Rylander:
The Democratic Party must present voters with a true alternative to Republican politics and policy. It is less important whether that alternative is liberal or moderate so long as voters have a choice. If the party chooses the centrist position (and that may be the right choice) it cannot simply mimic the GOP or offered watered-down versions of GOP ideas. It needs to offer its own distinct plans. If the party can do that in a compelling way, we’ll go a long way toward rectifying the problems Democrats faced in this election.
Matthew Yglesias:
Well, at least we’re rid of Dick Gephardt, a totally reprehensible man and a basically failed leader. I never understood how one could go into the ‘94 elections as the #2 Democrat and emerge as the #1, and Dick’s unique ability to personify the worst instincts of the party’s right (senseless accomodationism) and left (protectionism) while throwing some poor public speaking abilities into the mix was just too much. I suppose I’m supporting Nancy Pelosi over Martin Frost in the leadership battle, because while I think I agree with Frost that a moderate would be preferable to a liberal, I think Frost is the wrong kind of moderate. Trying to win the South and put the New Deal coalition back together again by ditching the cultural issues is both immoral and strategically silly. It’s true that Dems could stand to do better with white men, but there are fewer and fewer white men in this country every year, so better to look for votes elsewhere.
More from Yglesias:
Let me offer a prediction and say that while the media will cover Pelosi/Frost as a left/right ideological struggle, that the actual breakdown in the House Democratic Caucus will break down more along generational and stylistic lines, with old-school types flocking to Frost irrespective of ideology and younger folks more comfortable with postmodern politics’ emphasis on fundraising and media strategy will go for Pelosi.

Remember that when Pelosi ran against Steny Hoyer for the job she’s currently got that everyone felt the need to interpret that race as a left/right battle, too, even though no one was quite sure who the liberal was. It was all about age, gender, style, and region. After all, picking a Minority Leader isn’t like picking a President since all the voters in this election are people who are actually going to need to work with the new Leader on a day-to-day basis, so they’re bound to bemore concerned with that person’s general approach than with his specific policy stances.

[04:26 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Some weblog perspectives:

Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:44 PM:

Capazolla observes that: "When we fail to understand that Republicans and conservatives actually believe the words they say, believe them to be the truth, and intend to take action upon them, we yield the advantage to the other side."

From the anarchocapitalist sidelines where I sit, this is a deeply interesting statement. It's the closest thing I've ever seen to an admission from the left of something that seems to be true; namely, that the left tends not to believe the words it says, and does not intend to take the actions that would follow logically from the arguments being made, if those arguments were believed and/or true.

In other words, I see Capazolla saying "Wake up folks! You get so used to saying shit because it's politically expedient, whether you believe it or not, that you forget those other guys sometimes actually mean the crap they are spouting! And so you don't take them seriously enough!"

Not, of course, that the left has any monopoly on the use of deceit in pursuit of political ends. Nonetheless, it's telling that someone speaking from the left feels the need to remind the faithful to keep in mind the fact that the "other guys" are more likely to mean what they say.

ruprecht ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 01:30 PM:

If you start to talk about conspiracies (vast right wing, Wellstone was killed, Bush knew, Jews did it) you look wacky and the vast majority of centrists (Reagan democrats and Clinton Republicans) won't listen to you.

If you don't seem to think the death of 3,000 Americans is really that important (Chomsky, Sontag and Moore all more or less said we deserve it) or reverse your opinions (Must eliminate Taliban prior to Sept 11 and against attacking the Taliban post Sept 11) you look anti-American and the Centrists won't listen to you.

The Democrats must not define themselves simply as the anti-Republicans. If the Republicans do something the Democrats would normally agree with (had a Democrat done it) they should jump in with both feet and shape that project (Ted Kennedy working with Bush on education is a good example).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 01:47 PM:

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and American liberals, including this weblog writer, supported the invasion of Afghanistan and the war on the Taliban. So I'm not sure who's being addressed when "ruprecht" writes "you," but it certainly isn't me.

I'm tempted to yank "Bacchus"'s little exercise in armchair psychologizing, since what we have here is someone flat-out accusing Jim Capozolla of lying, which is definitely over the line. But I think I'll leave it up as a sample of the sort of bad faith the world is up against.

Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 02:15 PM:

I fear I may have been misunderstood.

My comments were actually intended to highlight what appeared to me to be a moment of intellectual honesty on Capazolla's part.

Although I think there's lots of dishonesty on left and right alike, I used extreme care in my first comment to make sure I didn't accuse any one individual of it. Rather, I was fascinated by what appears to be a leftist evaluation of relative levels of dishonesty.

I'm sorry if that crossed a line. This being your playground, by all means please do remove these remarks if they are unwelcome here for any reason. My enjoyment of this blog shan't be any the diminished for it.

ruprecht ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 02:30 PM:

My 'you' comments are meant to generically represent the people holding those views.I apologize for the mistake I should have been more specific. Those views I mentioned were not widely held in the left, but they got a lot of media play across the nation and were not shouted down by more reasonable voices (as Falwells equally stupid comments directly after Sept 11 were shouted down by the right).

The impression left on middle-America was that these positions are tacitly accepted by many on the left and that was a big factor in the elections.

During the Clinton era the Republicans were dominated by the wacky right because they wanted as many people in their party as possible. That scared the center and Dole was trounced and Clinton picked up seats in the 1998 midterms. George W. changed the perception and squeeked by. He changed it further and did well this last Tuesday.

The Democratic party is in danger of heading down that same route and becoming irrelevant for the next few elections. That would not be good for the country.

Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 03:00 PM:

Bacchus, I don't think Capazolla was saying that the Left don't believe what they (we) say. He was saying that the Left is in the habit of believing that Conservatives do not, and that it's that habit that gets us into trouble.

I believe everything I say. I'm sometimes incredulous at the things the right says, but at least for most of them their ideology is genuine. Please give us the same credit.

Now, lies on matters of fact, as opposed to personal belief, are another matter. For example, I am automatically suspicious of anything a Conservative says about Al Gore or Bill Clinton, because they've lied so very often on those topics.

I believe you believe in Anarchocapitalism. This despite the fact that I believe anarchy and capitalism cannot be combined (because without government control, capitalism inevitably engenders plutocracy, which is not anarchy). But I don't doubt that you believe it, and will take whatever steps are in you to bring it about. I have to believe that in order to oppose you properly.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 06:22 PM:

What seems to me to justify the term "bad faith" about Bacchus's comment is his interpretation of why Capozolla expresses incredulity (but resigned acceptance) that the right believes what it's saying.

Bacchus thinks this is because the left lies so much that it thinks everybody else lies too.

Those of us actually on the left think it's because we're telling the truth, and what the right says is so divorced from the truth (in our opinion) that we find it hard to imagine that anybody actually believes it.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 05:30 PM:

There's nothing new about disbelieving that right-wing leaders mean what they say. How many people died before the world figured out that when Hitler said "annihilation" he actually meant it?

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 01:53 PM:

When a conservative says something like "All morality originates from God, and no one can be moral without the guidance of God", I have a choice of reactions. My usual reaction is to assume that this speaker is just bloviating, saying something which has a vaguely comforting shape but which they wouldn't actually believe if they thought about it. So I keep getting nasty surprises.

(The conservative in this example was Joe Lieberman, incidentally. I am ashamed that a candidate I supported shackled himself to such a reprehensible blight on the body politic.)