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October 9, 2003

Break out the clue musk. Writing in Salon, Tina Brown describes a recent meeting of well-heeled Upper West Side Democratic activists:
At a “political brainstorm” supper the other night, hosted by a brand-name author who’s also a Democratic activist, a bunch of West Side legends with plenty of cash to spare sat with dinner on their laps and harangued each other about the need for action. In truth, the host had convened them so he could put the arm on them on behalf of the DNC, but they wouldn’t have come if he’d told them that. “Money’s not the issue here,” one of them thundered (to the host’s chagrin). “Everyone in this room has given at least half a million bucks to the party in their time.” No, they wanted to talk ideas. They wanted to talk tactics. Most of all they wanted to talk winning.

One recurring theme was the longing for a rapid-response war room to beat off Republican “disinformation.” When Rush Limbaugh’s OxyContin habit hit the airwaves, for instance, Democrats lacked what Republicans would have had in their shoes: a ready-to-go bullet-point list of all the times Rush had mouthed off about how drugs are all the fault of permissive liberals. “I’m happy to give money to that!” shouted a theater producer.

Not that anybody asked me, but you know, you’d think these “West Side legends” could take a look at Eschaton.

Or, you know, pay someone to do so and summarize the results, seeing as they’re so busy being legendary and all. [03:01 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Break out the clue musk.:

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 03:43 PM:

If only they had a Talking Points Memo. Something some sort of Pundit could deliver. Something that could immanentize an Eschaton of productive response. Hell, even a Hit & Run encounter with fellow critics of the administration, even those who advocate quite different solutions, might teach them something.

Why yes, I've got a deadline tomorrow.

Eddie Cochrane ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 04:56 PM:

It sounds very much like the Excalibur Rapid Rebuttal system, that the Labour Party has been using here in the UK since 1995. The linked article explains how they borrowed the idea from US Democratic Party campaigners, so I assume it should still be around somewhere. Perhaps it is gathering dust under a sheet, or being jealously guarded by the DLC pending Al Gore's second coming. The company and product itself have changed names in the meantime, it's now Convera RetrievalWare.

Eddie Cochrane ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 06:22 PM:

Now, now. DLC =/= DNC
Oh, I choose my TLAs carefully, but I was attempting to be ironic.

r@d@r ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 08:08 PM:

from personal experience, i find that a goodly portion of upper-level-income liberals, even the professional activists and lobbyists who visit the beltway frequently to swim with the sharks, don't surf the internet; they have someone like me do it for them. they're still in the 20th century as far as information gathering is concerned. meanwhile, we, their employees, steal time and broadband from them to blog, because they'll never notice.

dean's freakishness in this regard is not to be underestimated. he really is the most wired, and it could be the deciding factor next year.

boy, i would LOVE it if all of this blogging and blog-reading crap were something they paid me to do, instead of trying to figure out how to print their 20MB PowerPoint presentation on their ten year old DeskJets. every once in a while i find an article online about the issues my boss is lobbying for, and print it up and show it to him; upon which he usually scratches his head and goes "wow--how did you find this?"

easy: you know all that filing you asked me to do a couple of months ago? well..........

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 12:48 AM:

Patrick, you're good at finding these things; fans who grew up in the bad old days of science fiction often are out of simple necessity. But not everyone is.

Perhaps they need another high-paid political consultant? Or maybe you could just pay them a visit?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 02:25 AM:

Oh, come off it. Atrios is one of the most widely-read political bloggers in the world. I'm not "finding" some obscure niche thing that nobody ever heard of.

I mean, Joe Conason's Big Lies -- a New York Times bestseller -- includes an acknowledgement to Eschaton, along with Calpundit, Brad de Long, and a short list of other lefty webloggers. This isn't indie rock. Most left-leaning working journalists are reading these guys. Which makes it all the more idiotic that these self-important Upper West Side morons appear to be still standing to one side of the Information Highway, wondering if this "automobile" thing is, you know, another one of these mo-dren fads.

Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 04:30 AM:

I've been thinking for some time that one reason for the widely bemoaned gulf between politicians and the public in the Western Democracies might be that Joe and Jane Public (and the teenage Publics and all the little Publics) go online a lot more than Mr or Ms Representative (not to mention Jack or Jill Journalist and their dinner-party friends the Chattering-Classes) do.

For much of the political and media establishment the Internet is still some shadowy thing Out There, haunted by demonic prowlers napstering sinister stuff (even though all the parties and media outlets have their own websites, some of them very good - they don't seem to have sussed that a different take on things is only a click or two away; they're still thinking in terms of a one-to-many model, not many-to-many).

It might also be one reason why months in Iraq do the work of years in Vietnam.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 05:45 AM:

Money is not the issue here may well translate to I raised $250,000 for Al Gore and he screwed up. Tina Brown can be so condescending.

While of course Atrios could help clue them in, what I think is being said is that the assembled luminaries want Bush out but don't trust the party to just solve it. In this they are in touch with reality.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 11:34 AM:

I think the relationship of political blogdom to the mainstream press is kind of like the relationship of fanzine fandom to sf readers. Just knowing the major figures takes effort. You've spent a lifetime making that kind of effort. But that's not most people--even most Democratic activists.

That said, I agree with what I take to be your main point--that the Democratic party's leading lights are out of touch with its base and with its best supporters in the various communities of artists and intellectuals. The system by which the US parties create their platforms is such that there is little incentive to establish those connections. This, of course, is not a problem for the authoritarian reactionaries which now control the Republicans--they don't want to build consensus--but for a would-be democratic party it is a disaster.

I have come 'round to the belief that we need reforms that would make our political system more responsive to the diversity of needs and wants in the USA, that would allow a visible opposition leadership, and that would make the system more resistant to control by a geographically distributed minority.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 12:28 PM:

Randolph, I agree about the need for reforms, but I'm not sure what they are. Do you have some specifics in mind?

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 02:04 PM:

I think that a LOT of older-generation people (ie. my generation, and I mean both M and F) think keyboards are for secretaries, and that Not Typing as a sign of success. About 12 years ago I was volunteering for a local non-profit at a lawyer's office. He didn't even know how to turn his secretary's typewriter on, and seemed almost proud of that. I believe that it was a status marker for him. Or maybe a macho thing.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 02:37 PM:

Says Randolph Fritz: I have come 'round to the belief that we need reforms that would make our political system more responsive to the diversity of needs and wants in the USA, that would allow a visible opposition leadership, and that would make the system more resistant to control by a geographically distributed minority.

I think that we can accomplish at least part of this by a more widespread attempt on the part of the voters to put people into office who are not part of either of the Two Big Political Parties, and that's why I will take this moment to harp on my personal political platform:

Learn to count. Vote third party. Please. Pretty please.

That having been said, I agree in general, and would happily entertain other methods of acheiving these goals. The current system is past fubared. It's rafubared.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 04:20 PM:

"more widespread attempt on the part of the voters to put people into office who are not part of either of the Two Big Political Parties"

Tina, "first, do no harm." (The openning of the Hippocratic oath.)

"I agree about the need for reforms, but I'm not sure what they are. Do you have some specifics in mind?"

I have speculations. Keep in mind that I don't know enough to actually draw up programs that I would support. That said, it is important to start at the state level--that way mistakes don't lead to global disaster. The instant run-off election might contribute or Guinier's cumulative ballot. There are probably other balloting schemes that would help--I would like to see it studied by real political scientists. We might also aim at internal reforms within the major parties. They could, for instance, put some real effort into selection an opposition leader and getting them air time. They might also work out other methods of designing party platforms, which would allow voters the option of identification with clearly defined factions with clearly defined relations. If this is not possible within the existing major parties I might consider aiming at a third party which operated that way, but I never want to see a failure like 2000 again.

As for the disporportionate power of electoral minorities within the USA, I have no ideas I find credible; it is deeply embedded in the constitution. So maybe we live with that.

The proposed liberal news network might also be very valuable.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 04:27 PM:

Zizka, a lot of people perfer talking and listening to typing and reading. A lot of political activists are very verbal people. Development of primarily speech-and-hearing oriented web and e-mail interfaces might make this less of an issue; you might call it a VUI (verbal user interface). Much of the work has already been done for blind users. Making it generally available would require substantial engineering effort, however.

Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 05:27 PM:

[quote]Oh, come off it. Atrios is one of the most widely-read political bloggers in the world. I'm not "finding" some obscure niche thing that nobody ever heard of.[/quote]

Well, actually you (and we) are in fact reading some "obscure niche thing" when we read Atrios. By his site counter, he apparently gets 50,000 hits per day. Assuming that those are all unique visitors, he has as many readers as, say, the local newspapers in Muncie, Indiana, or Hot Springs, Arkansas or [insert any of several hundred American small towns here]. Small potatoes, in the grand scheme of things. (On the other hand, my own blog gets about as many readers as the newspaper, if there is one, in Toad Suck, Arkansas.)

Put another way, if every single one of Atrios's readers lived in Manhattan, there would still be only about a 1 in 33 chance that any given person in Manhattan was an Atrios reader. So don't be surprised that there are massive numbers of people who haven't heard of some little corner of the Internet that you or I happen to follow.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 08:34 PM:

There are no corners on the Internet.

A usage statistic of 50k hits/day doesn't really tell you anything about the composition of the readers. It could be 50,000 people spread evenly through the wired world, or it could be the 5,000 best-read people on the internet and 45,000 people who read THEIR web pages/blogs/etc., or it could be 5,000 people who refresh a lot (hopefully not, but it depends on the counter how this effects count) who are all in the basement of one building.

But what it does tell you is the page gets an amazing amount of attention. I once had a web site that was featured in a CNN story that got maybe .1% of that. Granted, a number of years ago, when the internet population was less than it is now, but the point is, I averaged maybe 50-60 hits/day and that got me quoted in a major news source. (The web site no longer exists, by the by.) Even considering growth of net-savvy users and number of web pages, that's several orders of magnitude smaller, and the 'net has certainly not grown that big.

I suspect Patrick's point is something roughly like this: anyone who considers themselves seriously into (pick your choice of topic) should be able to easily and quickly find the most important web resources on that topic, whether it's through a personal search or by asking someone who is better internet-traveled. That 50,000 views a day is not "50,000 circulation". It's "50,000 people chose to come here and read this page today, that's how popular it is".

Or, in short (too late), your metrical scale is off on this one. 50,000 chosen visits a day to a web page is more akin to something with the circulation of Time or Newsweek than it is to the circulation of The Evanston Review.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2003, 02:04 AM:

Tina, third parties are how we got in our current, intolerable mess. Thank the Green Party and Nader.

The democratic process is a damned nusiance. The way it works here (and I'm not defending it, at the moment) is that one of the two big players gets elected for the Presidential slot, and most of the other important elected offices. The compromise and coalitiion building that goes into fielding a successful candidate happens _within_ the political party. We Americans have this fantasy about being able to show up once a year, or once every 4 years, stand in line, cast a vote, and be done with it.

The people who just show up did not get to set the agenda. They didn't get to decide which fights would be fought, which positions were soft and which were hard, they didn't take time and energy to dig into the whole bleeding mess and try to understand the issues past their most basic level. I think they have every right to vote. However, I think that is either romantic or daft to think that voting for a third party candidate will a) get him elected to a high-ranking federal office, and b) stimulate useful discussion and debate on important issues. The places the really important conversations are happening is _inside the party_.

No one can do everything, but everyone should do something. If it's politics you're concerned with, then obviously you want to spend time and energy on a campaign you believe in. But if you spend time on a third party candidate, you are backing a spoiler bid at the cost of depriving a major part your voice and your perspective. Parties change because people get involved, and work for what they want. That's how the Christian Right got such a hold on the Republican Party. It works.

It's the principle of united we stand, divided we fall. As long as there are two behemoth parties (not a law of nature, but certainly the current facts on the ground) a third party candidate will not win. If one of the parties manages to self-destruct (and this is quite possible, the internal stresses are showing in botyh parties), then a third party might well be able to step up and take the scepter of the fallen.

I know that many Usians look at European parlimentary systems with envy. All those smaller parties, more ideologically cohesive and pure, able to hold a significant bit of power because of the way the system functions. They pay for that with the separation of powers -- they don't have it. The exectutive branch is the same as the legislative branch. As Scott Imes once said, "Don't you think that's rather like putting the fox in charge of the hen house?"

Candidates are important, but parties are more important. A good candidate running in a terrible party will be responsible for terrible things. His presence in the Congress provides crucial weight just by his presence. It may be he holds the pivot place of majority/minority as Jeffords did. Voting your conscious is all very good, but money for your re-election campaign will come from the party, and the party will want you to demonstrate party loyalty... These are all the normal, reasonable, and appropriate results of people banding together to increase their power. Together we stand, united we fall. Which is why, nol matter how good a guy he is, you should not vote for a Republican, and no matter what a scum sucker he is, you have to vote for a Democrat. Bush is an emergency, and therefore the entire Republican party is an emergency. We can't stop things by voting our consciences, not if we vote for people who can't ever, ever win.

Voting is not something we do to feel virtuous. Voting is something we do because we care about the direction of our country and voting is one of the ways to affect future outcomes. All I can do is beg you to be cynical this November and next, and vote for the Democrats, even if they're just running for Dog-catcher. If you hate the Dems (like me), hook up with them, work with them, and find ways to influence them.

It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2003, 02:57 AM:

"Tina, third parties are how we got in our current, intolerable mess."

I'm not going to argue the point; if W. hasn't persuaded her, nothing will.

"The compromise and coalitiion building that goes into fielding a successful candidate happens _within_ the political party."

Not any more. Perhaps not ever; the system is geographically weighted, rather than weighted in any way relating to people.

"Candidates are important, but parties are more important."

We can say this until we are blue in the face, but there are plenty of people who vote for the person they like, rather than the party, because the parties do not--you said it yourself--have political identities or, I will add, visible spokespersons.

The existence, first, of television and, second, of biased television has broken the old system, weighting it heavily towards personalities. Some new balance is necessary.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2003, 11:37 AM:

I'll add one bit connecting Lydy's post to an item earlier in this thread.

If the Greens etc. are serious about getting somewhere with their candidates, they should try putting some of that energy into getting instant-runoff (or some similar form of every-vote-counts balloting) into place; that is the one change that could let votes for a third party (i.e., not just a replacement for collapsed Demicans) not be wasted. I doubt they will -- what I've seen is too much concentrated on self-righteous anger at the existing parties, and not enough at working the system until it tilts towards people instead of power -- but I'd be delighted to be proved wrong. (No, I don't work on this myself. I found a long time ago that when I argued for what I believed in, I was good at persuading people to take the other position. Maybe I should found the Geek Party....)

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2003, 12:05 PM:

Lydia, you say, "Tina, third parties are how we got in our current, intolerable mess. Thank the Green Party and Nader."

Oh, puh-LEASE!

Gore lost in 2000 due to incompetent campaigning and his personal-pride-driven unwillingness to let Clinton campaign for him, to say nothing of his lousy handling of the Florida debacle.

The Clinton years were an unbroken record of the Democratic Party leadership refusing to use remarkable prosperity to aid the Democratic base in any economic struggle whatsoever.

Clinton was a charismatic slimebag who could convince people that it was raining while he was pissing in their face. I watched it in Arkansaw for well over a decade and, by the second presidential election, I couldn't stomach it any more. I broke my streak of voting against Clinton in primaries and for him in November, giving my vote to some weirdo third-party candidate in 1996.

The Democratic Party leadership hates its base. It doesn't like the working poor. It doesn't like union members. It is scared of letting them have a significant voice in the party.

Clinton could shuck and jive and hide this obvious fact, but that trick only works if you have a competent sleight-of-hand artist. Gore was a klutz, and he got what he deserved.

The Democratic Party leadership did not learn their lesson from 2000. Howard Dean has, which is why the party leadership is doing everything it can to keep the nomination from him.

(I'm listening right now to an NPR game show, where the panelists think it's funny that a caller recognizes the words to a Beyonce song. That's the Democratic Party deathwish writ tiny.)

Blaming the Greens is a convenient excuse for the DLCC (Democratic Leadership Corporatnu Cult), who are determined to nominate someone that won't hurt their own economic interests.

That being said, the solution isn't the Greens (I know several of the Arkansas Greens' leadership personally, and they are very sweet people who are also loonytunes nutcases), but a grassroots Democratic Party revolt. The hard right spent its time well infiltrating the Republican Party structure. Now they have their President--hard work, focus, and dedication are rewarded.

I've changed my mind on this. Back in the eighties and well into the nineties I was aggressively advocating local Green Party organziing for local, non-partisan races. Partly I'm no longer the radical I once was, and partly I've had enough of idealistic self-destructive stupidity (more Revolutionary Suicide for my friends!), and partly I'm just sick of losing. Anyway, I changed.

  • Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and the DLC were the problem.
  • George W. Bush was the result.
  • Grassroots Democratic Party activism is the answer.

If the Democratic Party nominates a Gore or a Lieberman again, I'll vote Green in 2004, not as a matter of idealism, but as a matter of hardball pragmatic politics.

I guess I've learned a little from the DLC after all.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 12:55 AM:

"Gore was a klutz, and he got what he deserved."

As if the issue was what Albert Gore "deserved," instead of what we and our children and nieces and nephews all "deserve."

I have nothing but contempt for this view, and for the people who promulgate it. Yes, that's spelled c-o-n-t-e-m-p-t. Suck on it.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 07:02 AM:

I do find it astonishing that the Democrats still haven't learned the lesson that was already manifest (and in the papers!) in the '90s, which is that when one side makes use of both the Internet and it's most geekily ardent supporters, it outpaces the other side. The Republicans used everyone, including the whacked-out freepers, throughout the '90s, and it worked. To this day, even fairly reasonable people believe a lot of the lies about Clinton and Gore (secrets handed to China, intimidation of Willey, fundraising at a temple, etc.) that were pushed or kept alive on the 'net.

adamsj is right about one thing: The Democratic Party leadership really does come across as hating its base. That's a mistake the RNC quit making a long time ago.

I fault Gore for a certain amount of naivety, but I think too much is made of his not having "used" Clinton more in the campaign. From inside the Beltway, he could see that the press was never going to forgive Clinton for not caving in when they called for his resignation and that they were going for a strategy of getting revenge on Clinton by trying to tie him to Gore, and he ran from it. That may or may not have been a mistake, but let's not forget that Gore received far more votes than Clinton did. He also won the election. His real mistake wasn't so much not using Clinton, it was not using the Rev. Jackson in Florida to counteract the bourgiose rioters from the RNC.

But aside from that, there were literally dozens of elements that went into keeping Gore out of the White House in the 2000 election, only a couple of which can be laid at Gore's doorstep. The astonishing bias of the media was the most powerful. And despite that, right up until the morning after the first presidential debate, Gore was headed for a landslide - which means his failure to use Clinton really wasn't hurting him. The media had to spin the first debate for all they were worth to make Gore "look" bad in a debate he had won handily. His numbers were still high after the debate - until the media spent the week inventing lies they could pretend he told.

It's ironic that Al Gore, of all people, did not recognize the danger from the RNC geeks, but it wouldn't surprise me to know he has learned that lesson now, just as his speeches during the last half of 2000 and the ones he has given this year show his views have been radicalized as well - he has been sounding much more like a progressive liberal than even Ralph Nader has, lately. And I expect he knows now where to go for people who will pay attention and work hard - he did, after all, invent the Internet.

As to voting Green - I'm sorry, but if you think the Democratic Party leadership's arrogance is a bigger danger to our country than George Bush's, you really, really need to re-evaluate your priorities. Letting these maniacs continue to ruin our country and destablize the whole world just because the DLC has hurt your feelings is a special kind of arrogance in itself.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 10:21 AM:

First, I should take back one thing I said:

I wouldn't vote in 2004 for the Gore I saw in 2000--and I'd still vote Green in a Bush/Lieberman matchup (ain't gonna happen)--but I would vote for the Gore I've seen since then.

Bush is on the ropes--I'm not even sure he'll run again. It's time for boldness on the part of the Democratic Party. The hard-right Republicans have been winning because they decided some time ago to think in the long-term and work toward what they wanted, not toward what they thought they could get. Reacting to them, rather than doing as they did, is a losing strategy.


It's not a matter of the DLC hurting my feelings, but a matter of the Democratic Party being unwilling or unable to defend, let alone advance, my interests and those of its base.


Did I say the American people deserved W? I did not say that, and they do not deserve it, not even the people who voted for him. It depresses me horribly that my daughter--and I didn't name her Quincy Adams for no reason. I hope--was born and will spend her first year and a half under the most depressing president since Hoover. I'm just glad she won't remember most of it.

So your contempt misses me, as it is aimed at a view I do not share.

Gore--not the American people--is responsible for the campaign he ran. If he ran a bad campaign, then he personally is responsible for the results and he personally deserved to lose. The members of the party leadership (today's debacle was brought to us by the letters D, L, and C) who urged him to make those mistakes are also personally responsible for the results.

When we're talking strategy for next time (That's what we were doing, right? Or did I bring a gun to fencing practice?), the questions are: What went wrong last time? Why? What can we do better?

Most of all: How do we win?

In that spirit: Gore and his campaign made several really bad missteps:

  • Lieberman--what was he thinking? That seemed calculated to turn off the base.
  • How did he manage to lose West Viriginia, Arkansas, his home state of Tennessee? Bad resource allocation in regard to traditionally Democratic states. Arkansas was his for the asking. We put out an incumbent Republican senator that year, you know.
  • I wasn't there for the discussion, but my understanding is that Gore asked Clinton to cool it in 2000. Bad mistake--the party base loves Clinton. He didn't have to campaign for Gore, but he was needed out there campaigning, exciting people, and getting out the vote.
  • Florida, Florida, Florida. Is it only due to hindsight that we can say Gore should have quickly demanded a complete, full-state recount? It's hard to fault him on that, as he couldn't have known that would have shown him the winner. Still, by trying to cherry-pick counties where he thought he had the advantage, he helped cast it as a battle of politics as usual rather than principle. That worked to Bush's advantage in the run-up to the Supreme Court and since then.
  • I will fault him, as Avedon does, for not countering the Republican rioters with some form of less-forceful force. It's hard to do that--you have to push back hard enough to do some good, but not so hard that you look worse than the bullies--and harder to keep it from Going Too Far. Linking arms, blocking access, and getting kicked, shoved, and spit on is about right. That's principled, looks good in pictures, and possible.

Two major factors beyond his control helped beat Gore: Nader and the Supreme Court. Of those two, it's the Supreme Court that deserves condemnation. That decision is a marvel of special pleading in the interest of partisan politics. Hammering on that rather than Nader would be productive.

When the party leadership diverts attention from their mistakes by blaming Nader--and to the extent that people such as yourself aid and abet them in doing so--they are irresponsible.

Nader pulled some voters away from Gore, but he also brought in a fair number of voters who otherwise weren't going to vote that year. Those voters--who had very few Greens to vote for lower on the ticket--may have been the margin of victory for Granholm in Michigan and other Democrats elsewhere. (I won't claim them as the margin for Pryor in Arkansas--Hutchinson beat himself there.)

Is there a focus on getting those voters into the D column? To put it differently, is Nader-hating productive? Or is it another way to avoid the real problems in the Democratic Party?

I'm excited by the Dean campaign, for the same reason a lot of party leadership are scared to death of it--it gives both voice and power to the party's grassroots. I'm excited by the AFL-CIO's use of handhelds and databases in Nevada, I'm excited by Demzilla, and I'd downright swoon over linking two such initiatives and making the results usable at the state and local level.

That's just process, though, and if it isn't put into the service of something worth fighting for, it's not worth jack. The Republicans are doing cool tech, too, but I ain't working for them.

I was reading an excerpt in Smithsonian from Caro's newest volume on LBJ last summer, and I was struck by a quote from Johnson about the Democratic Party. LBJ said, essentiallly, that the Democratic Party was where the the common man could go for justice when no one else would fight for his interests. It was so beautifully unequivocally said, it nearly moved me to tears.

They'd run him out of the party today for saying now what he said then.

That's the problem.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 03:25 PM:

I have little enough patience for the Terry McAuliffes of the world, nor do I think Nader is the sole author of the misfortunes of 2000. There's plenty that's wrong with the Democratic Party.

But I continue to marvel at the argument that the proper course of action toward someone who's knifed you is to be really, really nice to them in the hope that maybe they won't do it again.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 03:38 PM:


Fair enough. I don't object to hardball politics. But let me ask you this:

Is it more important to get back at Nader, or to peel off his voters?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 07:37 PM:

Oh, the latter, of course.

I'm not actually an irredentist on this question. I just think some people need to be clear that when you declare war on a political party, people in that party are likely to harbor some ill feelings about it.

And while many Green voters are lovely people and my friends, Ralph Nader has made it repeatedly clear that his aim is to destroy the Democratic Party. What I really have contempt for is the idea, beloved of extremists at all times, that "things have to get worse before they can get better." Nader and his closest loyalists appear to me to have gone over to that kind of thinking. There's nothing decent or good about it; it's the modern expression of the old, seductive logic of human sacrifice.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2003, 08:47 PM:

Yeah, the Trots called it "maximizing the contradictions"--probably still do. I was always sane enough to know that as an essentially inhumane idea, even in my wildest wild-eyed leftist days.

Still, sometimes risks have to be run and sacrifices have to be made. I'm wary, though, when risks and sacrifices are chosen by our supposed leaders rather than forced on us by our opponents.

If I thought the Greens were capable of becoming a competent third (better yet, second) party, and if I thought the Democratic Party were irredeemable, I could accept the short-term misery that would accompany the period during which the hard-right wing would run roughshod over most of the rest of us, but the Greens can't do it and the Democratic Party can be fixed.

I always thought the appropriate response to "Love it or leave it" was "Fix it or fuck it". (Sorry for the language.) "Leave it" has never been an option for me, though, and neither is "fuck it".

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 04:14 AM:

"sometimes risks have to be run and sacrifices have to be made"

Would you swap with one of our dead soldiers, if you could? No? Then cease to speak of the need for sacrifices. Or sacrifice yourself if the need is great--that was what Gandhi taught.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 08:16 AM:

adamsj, how extremely well said.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 09:03 AM:


First, I was talking about political risks and sacrifices. If the country gets a bad president, I suffer and risk along with everyone else. That's what I was talking about.

Second, I don't feel I have the absolute right to impose such risks and sacrifices on others, even those which I share. Far from it--and that's what I was saying.

Third, it's fair to ask one to take the same risks others take. It's not fair to ask one to do more than they did, namely, committing to a worst-case result in advance.

Fourth, every time I swap out an old, dearly-held belief which is not longer good, I wonder whether this is the one that makes me a scummy hypocrite when I go back on it, and that hurts.

Fifth, I pissed away most of my life between eighteen and thirty-five in what I've come to believe was a largely-mistaken idea of serving the general good, so I've paid some dues.

Sixth, someone else has been thinking about this sort of thing lately. Let me recommmend this:

Prisoner's Dilemma: How '60s anti-war activists let today's chicken hawks off the hook. A draft-resister's story. By Robert Poe

Poe was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison for refusing induction. I'm not sure I agree with his argument, but he has moral stature and makes a good case in this compelling reminiscence:

"Curiously, such anger towards hawkish civilian leaders who avoided putting themselves in harm's way is not something most Americans share--at least not yet. While Bush's poll numbers have been plummeting, the drop reflects worry over the continuing chaos in Iraq more than any growing anger at administration members for ducking service in their youth. Partisan Democrats may be furious that a president who sidestepped combat now poses as a war hero. But what really drives Democrats crazy is that Bush seems to have paid no political price for doing so...

"One can imagine any number of reasons for this shift. One obvious factor is the end of the draft in 1973, which no longer forces every young man to consider the possibility of military service. Another is the triumph of individual market thinking in this country--the growing sense of personal freedom and individual entitlement in modern life, and the corresponding fading of the notion that one has a duty to anything outside one's self and family. But there is another, related factor for which liberals--especially those of my generation, who came of age in the late 1960s--bear heavy responsibility. Too many of them opposed the Vietnam War in ways that required no personal sacrifice, while at the same time successfully grabbing the banner of high idealism by growing their hair long and marching in anti-war protests. Though they may not want to admit it, members of the anti-Vietnam War movement, who today dominate the opinion-making class, helped erode the connection in the public's mind between patriotism and courage, idealism, and sacrifice. And that change in public attitude has let today's so-called 'chicken hawks' off the hook."

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 01:44 PM:

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how people can say Nader is why Dubya is in office.

Here's why:

The people who voted for Nader were not exclusively people who would otherwise have voted for Gore.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.

Some of them might not have voted at all, joining the other half of the eligible voters in this country who skip the polls.

Some of them would have voted for the Republican candidate if there were only two parties in reality instead of in people's minds.

Quite frankly, I think that the half of the country that doesn't bother voting quite specifically doesn't do so because people promulgate only the Democrats and Republicans as viable candidates, and they don't like either. Given more visibility to other candidates, more of those people would probably vote.

But since currently the choice is Scylla and Charybdis specifically because of people who refuse to vote for anyone but members of the Demopublicans, more and more voters have lapsed into apathy.

I'm on my way there now.

"But if you spend time on a third party candidate, you are backing a spoiler bid at the cost of depriving a major part your voice and your perspective."

This is only true because more people aren't doing it. That's why I promote it. The more people who do it, the more viable the 3rd-party candidates are. But those of you who aren't willing to take a little risk to back candidates based on their beliefs, not their chance of winning, are the reason why it doesn't work.

What's more, there's this kind of assumption that goes like this:

30 people want to vote for Candidate C
All 30 of those people, deprived of Candidate C, would vote for Candidate A
Therefore, Candidate C voters are depriving Candidate A of their vote

That's not how it works. It's possible 15 of those people would vote for Candidate A if Candidate C didn't exist. But 7 or 8 of them would probably opt for Candidate B, and the rest just would skip the election in disgust.

Ask around. Some Nader voters were otherwise Republican. No, really.

Anyhow. I'm done here. The rest of this argument follows a script I've read before and am not interested in the reruns of. Several people explained the usual pro-big-Two-Party side. I've explained the usual pro-third-party side. We don't need to later, rinse, and repeat.

(PS: We aren't in this situation because of Nader. We are in this situation because of the terribly outdated Electoral college. Anyone want to argue about that one?)

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 02:04 PM:

I've argued plenty about the Electoral College, but that's not as much to blame as the outright corrupt handling of the election in Florida. If every Floridian who had both the desire and legal right to vote had been allowed to do so, all the ballots had been designed in accordance with the law, and all ballots had been counted in accordance with the law, Republicans would be trying to trump up reasons to impeach President Gore right now.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 10:53 PM:

"I was talking about political risks and sacrifices. If the country gets a bad president, I suffer and risk along with everyone else. That's what I was talking about."

Some suffer more than others, and some are not suffering any longer.

Running, essentially, a spoiler candidate in a close election, when the a likely result was a win for people with tyrannical inclinations. Maybe the Greens made a difference in the election outcome, maybe not. But they were willing to risk it, and for only a symbolic victory, and I will not trust the leaders who took that risk. Not for a very long time, perhaps not ever.