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April 12, 2005

With advice like this, how can we fail? As I more or less said in the comments here, oh, I get it. The ruling right-wing coalition has one area of serious political vulnerability: people suspect they’re busybodies far too interested in nosing around their neighbors’ morals.

Therefore, Democrats and liberals should emulate them in this. That will make us more popular. [10:41 PM]

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

Comments on With advice like this, how can we fail?:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 10:56 PM:

As the inimitable Digby observed, "Yes, by all means, let's adopt the biggest political cock-up the Republicans have made in the last twenty years as our own."

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 10:58 PM:

Excerpt from an AIM conversation:

[PNH]: I have Had It with "communitarianism". The idea that it takes a village, etc., is just common sense--if you don't recognize that we're interconnected and owe one another decent behavior, you're a sociopath. Even libertarians, the sensible ones at any rate, realize this. "Communitarianism", on the other hand, always turns out to mean "I want to run your life but I want credit for being a liberal." I'm Not Having It.

[Avedon Carol]: Well, shit, why didn't you write that?

[PNH]: Hm.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Amy Sullivan drives me nuts. She keeps pulling crap like this -- posting some half-formed rant about how Democrats have an extremist position they need to compromise on abortion or pop culture, but she never clarifies exactly what the position is that she thinks we should take or how it differs from our current one.

I get the feeling that what she actually means is "I'm uncomfortable about [topic] and want Democrats to reassure me that they're doing to do something about it."

Or she's a GOP plant.

Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 12:05 AM:

The Republican response to lowered approval and a huge political cockup, as ever, is to reveal secret terrorist activity. I wonder how many people can see right through this one.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 02:08 AM:

Since Sullivan and Scheiber are an "item," which she disclosed earlier yesterday or today, it would seem logical to assume that they are feeding each other this pap. They don't seem to get it: if I wanted to be a Republican I'd register that way.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 06:36 AM:

One of the things that bothers me about the soi-disant "moderate" position on social issues is that they've so far unerringly picked up on the issues where

a) the Republicans are on the wrong side of the polls,

b) their actions don't in the least match their rhetoric, and

c) the cognitive dissonance between what they're meant to stand for and what they actually support make an awful lot of people who nominally support them very nervous indeed

and announce that we, the Democrats, should take those issues on, hug them to our bosoms and make them our own.

Better yet, we should announce that we're taking these issues as our own for completely cynical reasons.

If there's some nugget of gold in the idea that we can regain the public imagination by showing voters that we have no respect for them, I'd be fascinated to hear what it is. Until then, I'm just going to have to assume that all this strategerizing on the essential stupidity and sheeplike nature of the american people is just a really strong projection of minds far too willing to accept what they're told is the conventional wisdom.

By me, that's a poisoned well for Democratic, liberal or american politics to be springing from.

Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 09:49 AM:

Speaking AS a libertarianism, I find that programmatic "communitarianism" means, in practice, welding the least appealing parts of the Democratic program to the most disgusting parts of the Republican. Joy.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 12:15 PM:

I have always thought that "It takes a Village" meant you stop a stranger's bolting toddler from falling onto the subway tracks--not that it was a license to scold the stranger for bad parenting or step in to parent the child yourself. I am really sick of hearing the phrase used to justify any and all sorts of smug intrusiveness into the lives of other people (including me). This is not a left-right thing. It's simple common sense. Or should be.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 12:37 PM:

I think Madeleine has nicely articulated the kind of basic hand-level libertarianism that most Americans share. While the Amy Sullivans of the world frequently chastise their fellow liberals for supposed tone-deafness to the authentic concerns of none-elite folks, it's exactly this kind of natural, common-sense mind-your-own-business-ism to which they themselves are notably tone-deaf.

I don't for a moment think that Amy Sullivan or Noam Scheider want to institute a panopticon tyranny over American cultural life. But what's at issue is the impression left by these little sallies into reproval. It's an ill-judged political performance, and particularly hard to take from people who spend so much time lecturing their allies over the bad impressions we supposedly leave.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Wow, is THAT what they mean by 'communitarian' these days? Shit. It's not what I've meant, ever, when I've called myself a 'communitarian socialist'.

I was using the term to mean the opposite of 'authoritarian'. To me, communitarian socialism is the by-design-uneasy marriage of anarchism and socialism...that a society can take care of all its members without too much intrusion (and without formal government) if the communities are kept small enough to all SEE each other, and to see the value in taking care of one another.

It's idealistic, probably impractical, certainly undoable in our lifetime.

But it's also not this bullshit. Damn. WTF am I going to call my political belief system NOW?

I hate when this happens.

Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 01:40 PM:

Xopher,
call it "humanist". Or merely "human". And what Madeleine says goes double for me.
I am so tired of "democrats" telling me what "we" stand for. I never recognize myself in the description. Oh well. They tell me third parties are a no-go in American politics, but I can still dream.

tonecluster ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 01:45 PM:

"[PNH]: I have Had It with "communitarianism". The idea that it takes a village, etc., is just common sense--if you don't recognize that we're interconnected and owe one another decent behavior, you're a sociopath. Even libertarians, the sensible ones at any rate, realize this. "Communitarianism", on the other hand, always turns out to mean "I want to run your life but I want credit for being a liberal." I'm Not Having It."

Thank you!! Exactly. I am printing this out and sticking to my office wall, as a matter of fact.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 02:11 PM:

The terrific Amanda Marcotte writes on Pandagon:

You know what people like me hear when we hear Democrats lamely justifying their desire to dogpile Hollywood for making trash or crap or whatever you want to call it, hanging their reasoning on the children? The voice of Tipper Gore. And no amount of chipping in that you think children also need X, Y, and Z is going to help. Once Democrats start bringing censorship to the table, young people, artistic people, and those of us who still have a rebellious bone in our body start checking out. And stop bothering to vote.
I understand that the natural inclination after losing an election is to look at the other party and see if we can chip off some voters, perhaps by pandering a little to people who think "Desperate Housewives" is trash. But people who like to be pandered to by politicians railing against sexual innuendo on TV already have a party--the Republican party. The Democrats will never out-pander the party that controls Fox News, and I don't even see why we need to try.

Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 02:30 PM:


If it takes a village, how do we avoid the giant floating white blobs? What if they're not quite as vulnerable to plastic forks as they might look?

Makes me proud to be an heartless democratic socialist: if you can't work, I don't want to run your life, I just don't want to have to step past you as you beg, or over your body when you can't any more. It's both awkward and encourages a diminution of empathy in sheer self-defence that I find unpleasant and might end up hurting me. If you can work, I don't want you so scared of being reduced to penury that you'll vote for loony political or (wish it were "xor") religious leaders. Other social technology may also make life better (without being too intrusive on client or payer) for you, who might end up being "me" for some values of "you". Games go better when you don't kill the losers, as the Aztecs didn't say.

Why "heartless"?: because I think aiming for the stars can end up hitting London instead. People are going to find endless ways to screw up their lives even if they're warm and dry and decently fed; I don't want the government to try to stop them because it creates an obnoxious government, and besides, tomorrows useful innovation might be today's cock-up.

When kids are involved, I admit it gets dicey.

(And there go the Black Lodge Singers on WFMU wailing away on the "Flintstones" theme---I hope they 're the kind of village it takes.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 02:31 PM:

Meanwhile, Scott Lemieux on Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

If you want to know why Sullivan generates so many hostile responses, although she seems to be a progressive arguing in good faith, this remarkable part of her response to Matt is the key: "Most parents don't care that statistics of child wellbeing are improving overall; they worry about whether their kid is going to use drugs or start having sex early or become a victim of violence. Some twenty-something blogger telling them not to worry about it isn't going to make them feel better." This is the rhetorical strategy that Sullivan always uses: rather than making a case for cultural conservatism on the merits, she just projects her preferences onto some poorly defined demographic. The purpose of this is not to start a discussion, but to end it, to pre-empt any discussion of Sullivan's--I mean, American parents'--a priori values. You're not allowed to bring evidence of the actual effects of cultural products into the discussion; people believe what they believe, and one has to pander to that.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 04:14 PM:

Sullivan's rehtorical strategy is a byproduct of the right's assault on empiricism. Every time you try to bring a debate into the realm of verifiable fact, they drag out a dozen paid hacks to flood the field with junk statistics, rumors, innuendo, whatever. Soon the typical person's complexity buffer overflows and they give up and respond to whichever side has the most compelling graphics and punchier laugh lines, or caters to their existing prejudices, or just plain hammers them day after day on the local news.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 05:46 PM:
"Most parents don't care that statistics of child wellbeing are improving overall; they worry about whether their kid is going to use drugs or start having sex early or become a victim of violence. Some twenty-something blogger telling them not to worry about it isn't going to make them feel better."

Good gravy. As an actual parent--yes, I worry about whether my child is going to be a victim of violence, or start sniffing glue or having sex at a wildly early age. I also worry about other people's kids doing these things, since it lowers the over all tone of your 3rd grade class to have kids indulging in threesomes and crack orgies in the middle of recess. (Kidding. Honestly, I'm kidding.) Hell, when one of Becca's friends called her up at 10:30 last night (when Bec had been in bed since 8:30) I went so far as to wonder aloud what on earth her parents are doing letting a nine-year-old stay up that late. But the kid is not my kid, and that's not my choice. Nor do I, in the last analysis, want to take over making choices for other people. They may not like their choices. I'm pretty damned sure I won't like theirs. So I do my best to raise the level of discourse, as it were, by raising my kids according to my values. And I trust them to stay raised that way, unless they find a really compelling argument against those values, in which case I'd be interested to hear it too.

Amy Sullivan telling me what I'm concerned about doesn't make me feel supported or understood. It makes me want to hit her.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 07:26 PM:

The other half of "It takes a village" is folk bleating "We should raise our children as a community!" which I've always taken as code for "I want free babysitting!"

Um, no. Beyond what Madeleine's talking about, and basic good-neighbor reciprocity--which folk arrange or not on their own--you really shouldn't have to worry about it.

As for Tipper Gore, hers was a crusade of lazy parenting. If you want to know if you approve a certain album for your child, check the reviews or simply ask the clerk in the store for their opinion or ask to see the lyrics sheet. Expecting someone else to make these decisions for you? And worse, her proposed labeling categories for (songs glorifying) SEX, VIOLENCE and the OCCULT (booga-booga).

I remember writing in an opinion piece at the time that we'd have to slap "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" with the second two, since it certainly glorifies violence, plus positively reeks of Christian mysticism (and you don't get a free pass for your ecstatic trance visions of God's feet squishing your enemies like grapes as being non-occult just because they use Christian symbology and couple hallelujahs).

About the only good thing I can say about Tipper is that it appears the Dems wrapped her in duct tape from the moment Clinton stepped into office, because I didn't hear any more about her idiotic censorship campaign. Apart from Al's V-chip idiocy, which dropped the "Occult" setting, which is in some ways too bad, since I understand there are ways to hack the V-chip to show only Violent shows, and I'd like to hack it to show only Occult shows.

Tonight I'd get to choose between Smallville, Lost and Revelations.


Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 07:37 PM:

Doesn't David Brin have an essay about his coinage: IAAMOAC? I Am A Member Of A Civilization? Or something close to that?

He has described himself to me as "an unreconstructed Mondale Liberal Democrat" and "a Feminist" (the latter slightly strengthened by his editing an anthology of stories about abortion).

I'm thinking that he was trying to find a Democrat (or Social Democrat) reply to TAANSTAAFL!

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 08:40 PM:

Patrick, you've nailed it.

Since the Bush victory in 2000, the Democrats have been pursuing a strategy of trying to make the party more like Republicans. The more it fails, the harder some Dems seem to want to try.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 09:05 PM:

It's telling that the advocates of this sort of thing are managing to piss of people like Madeleine Robins and Mitch Wagner, settled bourgeois types who are definitely nobody's fire-breathing left-winger.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 12:13 AM:

Madeleine Robins is enough of a left-winger (fire breathing or otherwise) to feel apologetic about being a settled bourgeois type. But even before I became a property owner and an enemy of the people, I would have been pissed off by Amy Sullivan's smug assumption that my interests are the only ones I can tolerate discussing or espousing.

I was raised in Greenwich Village. I went to Little Red School House. I am not, by nature, combative, but I am a liberal by upbringing and inclination. I'm signed on with the Democrats for lack of any better option, but if they keep up this Republican Lite crap that's going to change. Let Bartlet be Bartlet.

clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 12:37 PM:

There's a lot of middle ground between nosy-free-babysitters and "Well, I'll save your kid if I'm facing that way" that 'it takes a village' should be used to cover, but I rarely see the arguments. For instance, street layout rules; the ones most common now are optimized for, oh, people speeding to the mall in a large car, but are terrible for encouraging kids to walk to school.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 01:56 PM:

I think it depends on the area. I walked to school as a kid, and the same suburban streets are equally convenient for getting to the library. Admittedly, bicycling to my high school required going for two block the wrong way down the bicycle lane to get to a crosswalk with a light, but the intersection I was avoiding was dangerous because of morning commuters, not mallgoers.

In the nice small town where my sister's kids go to school, the elementary school isn't walking distance from their house, even if there were sidewalks, which there aren't, because it's a mountain town with huge amounts of snow through the winter.

Though again we're doing the "about the children" business, instead of the "about the everybody" which is what society is supposed to be about.

On that end, speeding to the mall is less of a problem, since folk go to malls all hours of the day, than making the mistake of being near a school when it lets out and crazed moms are driving minivans with no regard for traffic laws so as to get the kids to soccer practice on time. I once had the front end of my car totaled because one such decided to to an illegal U-turn across three lanes of traffic and there was nowhere to avoid her.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 09:48 PM:

Like Madeleine, I bristled a little about being described as a "settled bourgeois type."

But, y'know, I am. I'm a settled bourgeois liberal. I rant and rave about politics occasionally on online discussion forums, but I lose interest. I own a house, two cars, am married to a member of the opposite sex, am monogamous. I work for a billion-dollar multinational corporation, and like it. The last time I went to a political demonstration I was in collegee — and I wasn't demonstrating, I was covering it for the college paper.

I don't think I have a point here, except to say, "What Patrick said."

The Terri Schiavo case, in particular, set me off. I watched my mother lose her faculties, my father start losing his, and my aunt and mother-in-law lose theirs. Alzheimer's is, to me, what AIDS has been to bohemians and homosexuals — I know some people who had it, I know a lot more with family members who have it, and I accept that I, or my wife, might well get it ourselves. This is not a theoretical thing to me, it's a cold finger that brushes the back of my neck ever so gently every time one of us forgets a well-known word, or our car keys.

If that doesn't freak me out enough, then I'm really freaked out that Tom DeLay and Bill Frist might take it upon themselves to make our medical decisions. And then Amy Sullivan comes along and says, hey, you know, the Democrats ought to be more like DeLay and Frist.

Have I said this here before? I've voted straight Democrat in just about every election. It's not that I love the Dems, or even like them, it's just that the Republicans always seem significantly worse. But each year, I pull that lever with less and less enthusiasm. Third-parties are starting to look good to me, especially knowing (as I do) that third parties will often end up changing the major parties platforms and get their policies enacted into government.

By the way, one thing I learned living in San Francisco was that gay people can be settled bourgeois types — even settled bourgeois conservatives — and that's kind of one of the points of the gay rights movement. We had a lesbian couple lived downstairs from us, one of them was a lawyer for a downtown firm, the other was in law school. They took the Muni downtown to work every weekday, wearing suits, and they probably thought of us as the weird bohemian neighbors. So what do the communitarians think? That the Democrats should do more to distance themselves from dangerous people like my former downstairs neighbors?