Skip to content

One more note on the New York Gay Marriage, Cuomo and the Gay Rights Movement

2011 June 26
by Ian Welsh

1) The left sells each other out for either small tactical gains, or nothing at all (hello national NARAL) all the time, so why shouldn’t the gays promise to help Cuomo in his next election for giving them gay marriage, even if it screws unions and helps an austerity governor?

2) The reason gays get anything is that unlike the rest of the left, they did two things: they cut off the donations, and they got ugly in people’s faces.  They stopped playing nice.  They stopped playing by the rules.  They stopped worrying about whether people in power “liked” them (hello National NARAL) and started playing rough.

3) Given that the left doesn’t hang together, which means that the choice is “gay marriage + austerity”, or “no gay marriage + austerity”, well, why not gay marriage plus a shitty economy?

The fact still remains that the left doesn’t hang together well enough, and that that is going to cost a lot of people lives, jobs, health and so on.  More and more as time goes on.  There is only one cardinal rule to effective alliances, no separate peace.  Those who are making a separate peace with Cuomo because they got what they care about more than anything else, are not allies of the rest of the left.

But when rats are deserting the ship, when everyone would rather hang separately, because they won’t hang together, perhaps a separate peace is all that can be hoped for.  Let those few who think they can make it, do so, the rest can suck on the shitty economy, war and so on, that are coming down the line.  “Every interest for itself” can be the battle cry of the left, I guess, the ultimate repudiation of the foundational beliefs that give, er, gave, the left moral authority.

47 Responses
  1. anon2525 permalink
    June 27, 2011

    2) The reason gays get anything is that unlike the rest of the left, they did two things: they cut off the donations, and they got ugly in people’s faces. They stopped playing nice. They stopped playing by the rules.

    This description sounds a lot like lobbying to me. They followed the “pay-to-play” rule for getting representation. Those who do not follow this rule (or who pay less than someone else) do not get representation in legislation. It is no coincidence that aid to pregnant women, infants, and children (AKA, WIC) and medical aid to the poor (Medicaid) are being cut in the federal budget. These people have not paid lobbyists to bribe donate to the campaigns of the “representatives.” Cough up some money, infants.

  2. Stephen Benson permalink
    June 27, 2011

    one of my favorite nautical proverbs was first given to me by the indomintable master chief boatswain’s mate norr while i was in the shot up leaking hulk of our boat pumping as hard as i could.

    “when the water passes your knees lad, follow the rats.”

  3. June 27, 2011

    Ian, I’ve been arguing this till I’m blue in the face. You can also see this divide-and-conquer strategy and the accompanying back-slapping on many supposedly liberal blogs.

    We’re trying to hang together for the October action, that’s what we’re pushing for, but it’s an uphill battle.

  4. Satan Mayo permalink
    June 27, 2011

    2) The reason gays get anything is that unlike the rest of the left, they did two things: they cut off the donations, and they got ugly in people’s faces. They stopped playing nice. They stopped playing by the rules. They stopped worrying about whether people in power “liked” them (hello National NARAL) and started playing rough.

    No, the reason gays get anything is that the super-rich have no problem with gays getting things. Being part of “the left” neither helps nor hurts.

  5. Bruce Wilder permalink
    June 27, 2011

    I agree with Satan Mayo.

    The politics of symbolism, long a staple of the Republican Party, has come full bore, to the Democrats. Republicans have made symbolic politics their staple for a long time, which is why their political ranks are now dominated by the good-looking spokes-model politician, seeking celebrity in place of power.

    George W. Bush was all about mobilizing an electoral base with symbolic gestures. A very important one was referendums on gay marriage, in fact. It just happens that this is an issue, where, if you simply talk about it a lot — doesn’t really matter what is said, within some civil bounds at least — people’s discomfort with the idea declines. People come out of the closet, etc. The fact that Republicans pushed as often as they did on that hot-button issue actually contributed to the acceleration of attitude change.

    But, for Dems or Reps, the politics of symbolism carries no political substance, and very little resource cost.

    The politics of income and wealth distribution can be completely divorced from the politics of cultural symbolism in a plutocracy. Democracy of a ceremonial sort can even continue, in disputes over these symbolic issues. In fact, making these kinds of cultural issues a salient part of our visible politics actually helps the plutocracy, because they may reduce any sense of felt solidarity among the masses.

    Obama is, himself, a potent example of symbolic politics. And, he’s the first Democratic President since Grover Cleveland to completely fail to do better than Republicans in delivering on economic substance for the mass of Americans.

  6. June 27, 2011

    There is only one cardinal rule to effective alliances, no separate peace.

    Could the left even be described as an alliance? It seems more like folks who don’t mind talking to each other all that much.

    That may be the first problem here, just getting the various interests on the left to acknowledge that they should hang together. Doing that requires, among other things, convincing them that they have enough in common, and that they’d all benefit more by hanging together.

  7. tatere permalink
    June 27, 2011

    What I’ve never understood is why anyone would assume that there was any great connection to begin with. Who you want to sleep with has no bearing on your thinking about economics, foreign policy, or anything else. Being a target of public hate might make you more sympathetic to other people in the same situation, but I think we’ve seen historically that it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

  8. June 27, 2011

    It means overcoming the conflict between the “identity” left and the “economic” left that is not a simple or trivial one. The “economic” left often treats the “identity” concerns as peripheral, so the latter has a motivation to defect.

  9. anon2525 permalink
    June 27, 2011

    No, the reason gays get anything is that the super-rich have no problem with gays getting things. Being part of “the left” neither helps nor hurts.

    True–if it had been a matter of money, then there would have been no change. Those whose financial interests would have been hurt would have stopped it. Their lobbyists can pay more money. The larger point is that there is no representative democracy. Politicians in office are not passing legislation because it is what the majority wants. They’re passing legislation that is paid for, in one way or another.

    But the point of the original post is that it took lobbying in order to get the change. The two large political parties did not want this to pass because the issue was useful to both of them for elections (D: “vote for us! we support civil rights for people who are gay!”; R: “vote for us! we support your bigotry!”). It helped them hide the larger point about there being no representative democracy. Elections are used for this, too.

  10. anon2525 permalink
    June 27, 2011

    And, he’s the first Democratic President since Grover Cleveland to completely fail to do better than Republicans in delivering on economic substance for the mass of Americans.

    Recall that bush’s residency was the first period of that length in which the median wage of the population did not rise. obama continues the bush/cheney policies of protecting his socioeconomic class and still the economy does not improve. Weird. Who could have guessed that would happen?

  11. Mudduck permalink
    June 27, 2011

    Friends in NY state government have explained that Andrew Cuomo’s program is to forestall draconian Republican cuts to government likely if he were defeated for re-election. He makes cuts now, on his terms, and the expected business recovery plus his reputation for making the system work, will see him re-elected (and an attractive candidate for US president).

    Problem: the recovery is doubtful, and state services cannot be financed without increasing taxes on Cuomo’s (and Obama’s) rich friends and supporters. The premises of Cuomo’s master plan are very likely faulty.

    I wasn’t one of those waving “Thank You Gov. Cuomo” signs yesterday, but it was nice to celebrate something we’ve worked for, for years. State Assembly members Dick Gottfried and Danny O’Donnell laid the groundwork, and the state-wide gay organization Empire State Pride Agenda provided the groundswell of constituent support. Cuomo did the necessary politicking to finish the deal, but many unsung activists deserve credit.

    And, always blighting the victory has been the question of what Cuomo traded away to get his validation as a successful progressive. We’ll find out, eventually. One more thing — I wish we had a cohesive movement that could take the over-all progressive stands that Ian wants. But looking back, it’s the unions that have betrayed allies — gays, minority workers, women — time after time for temporary advantage. In these times, I don’t feel guilty for taking a limited, tainted victory. It may lead to better things.

  12. BDBlue permalink
    June 27, 2011

    NARAL is one of the more interesting examples because they don’t even sell out for advances on their one issue. Gay activists could at least claim to have advanced their cause even if they’re being used as progressive cover for horrible economics policies. NARAL routinely agree to back policies that hurt their only stated mission. They’re one of the most corrupt organizations on the left – they don’t only sell out other parts of the left, they sell out their own supporters. Ugh! I really don’t understand why anyone would donate or listen to them. The only thing they’re good for is providing cover to politicians so they can pass anti-woman policies.

  13. Tallifer permalink
    June 27, 2011

    A man can be rich and homosexual at the same time. Indeed it would be the rich homosexual who would fight the political battle for his right to marry. I can see no automatic association between socialism and homosexuality: nontraditional social mores do not always mean nontraditional economics. The same problem exists for conservatives: many traditionalists mistakenly assume that, because the rich (falsely) trumpet the virtues of freedom in the marketplace, the bankers and chief executives will therefore protect the unborn or help the deserving poor.

  14. June 27, 2011

    BDBlue writes:

    NARAL routinely agree to back policies that hurt their only stated mission. They’re one of the most corrupt organizations on the left – they don’t only sell out other parts of the left, they sell out their own supporters.

    Sadly, they’re not alone. Look at many of the progressive orgs right now, and they accept non-support from Democrats, yet give them good ratings. It’s little wonder most rank and file progressives don’t understand what their representatives are doing – the organizations that are supposed to point out failure don’t.

  15. Notorious P.A.T. permalink
    June 27, 2011

    Don’t forget about the AARP agreeing to Social Security cuts. What possible good is an elder persons’ advocacy group that won’t protect SS?

    Now here’s Dan Savage on TV saying that people who oppose gay marriage aren’t “really” Christian. God, why is the left so blind?

  16. General Washington permalink
    June 28, 2011

    I get the feeling some people are missing Ian’s point from a historical perspective.

    That perspective might include Seneca Falls, a civil war, and a dash of early 1900′s marches.

    Which resulted in?… So-called victories that left two groups with accomplishments that – in reality – meant little then, and mean even less now.

    The 196os were an aberration for both groups, and have had little lasting effect, thanks to a carefully tended “backlash” fed by economic factors and the second (or is it third?) American religious revival.

    Something, I might add, that came about from disparate groups – with interests that have never intersected in a truly meaningful way – coming together to achieve what appear to be entirely separate goals.

    Such as denying gays the right to marry, and raping the working-class for all they’re worth, under the banner of a shared social vision…

  17. Carl permalink
    June 28, 2011

    Eric Alterman points out a key part of the coalition behind the gay marriage bill:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/06/26/andrew-cuomo-s-flawed-liberalism.html

    …To win the necessary votes for passage, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his team turned not to Republican senators or their constitutents, but to their top-dollar donors. People like former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and the billionaire Paul Singer, who speaks proudly of the “wedding album of my son and son-in-law,” married in Massachusetts, and the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb who “had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure.” Within days, Cuomo had $1 million in his Republican gay marriage fund and a “path to victory.”…

  18. Bernard permalink
    June 28, 2011

    There hasn’t been any unity for a long time. picking off groups one at a time has been a great success. the divide and conquer strategy. this has been going on for such a long time. I haven’t seen any “group” consensus in a long time. When The “ERA” failed in Congres, that begin the fall of the various groups that got the Civil Rights Acts going. since then, it’s been all downhill/via separate and divide. this was highlighted by Reagan’s destruction of the Air Traffic controller Union. Shocked silence was what i remember. Since the Right has been in control of society for 40 years nows, and effective at the “divide and conquer” strategy for so long, i gather the “other” groups have decided to forgo “Unity” under the guise of “lobbying” with the resulting sellout of their “leaders” for access in the “Village”. some kind of illusion that was and still is.

    just look at what HRC/GLAAD/AARP have been doing over the years, selling out for “access” to the Village. Ezra Klein typifies this for me. supposed lefties who won’t raise “Cain” so they can pretend they are “winning” through access to the very people who are responsible for the problems. of course, the Unions have done that too. Forgetting where they came from. screwing the rest so they can sit at the table, yet they still have to fight for any crumbs the TPTB leave. look at the Democrats who voted for Christie’s NJ austerity policies. More Republicans in Democratic veneer.

    Buying into the “Greed is Good” American Exceptionalism

    as that flag says, we hang together or we hang separately.

  19. June 29, 2011

    vanessa’s ‘new york for marriage’ summed it up best. “it’s time for new york to realize that gaii marriage is a passe topic and if we don’t pass it now flatlander states will make us look bad.” it’s hardly a victory and means little except to richer gays with property, children and/or insurance who want to play biff and susie or protect their interests. and yes, it’s going to be used as cover for democratic moves to enforce austerity, but i don’t really care about that because if it wasn’t us, it would’ve been some other bone tossed to some other group. it was just, for a rare change, our turn. i mean, don’t get me wrong: go ny gays, good job. money helps; those rich gays who funded this probably threw some good parties with nice boy toys and blow. meanwhile, i still don’t have equality. i can still be fired just for being who i am. i don’t want to join the military or get married. so i’m still a second class citizen.

  20. StewartM permalink
    June 29, 2011

    Tallifer

    A man can be rich and homosexual at the same time. Indeed it would be the rich homosexual who would fight the political battle for his right to marry. I can see no automatic association between socialism and homosexuality: nontraditional social mores do not always mean nontraditional economics.

    You see this repeated among other the wealthy among traditionally discriminated-against minorities: African-Americans, Jews, etc. As soon as one of the “gets his” (or hers) and becomes rich he/she goes all right-wing in economic policies.

    To speak in aphorisms, they “forget where they came from”. Or, as also is commonly said, “a libertarian is just a rich conservative who also smokes pot”.

    -StewartM

  21. StewartM permalink
    June 29, 2011

    Bernard:

    When The “ERA” failed in Congres, that begin the fall of the various groups that got the Civil Rights Acts going. since then, it’s been all downhill/via separate and divide.

    And to a large extent the “separate and divide” tactics of the Right succeed because among the Left in America, on virtually every issue, attacks, marginalizes, and finally destroys its own left flank. The Right doesn’t have to do this because the Left does it for them. On every issue, to appear “reasonable” and “moderate”; including on gay rights.

    What the Left doesn’t realize is that destroying one’s left flank doesn’t cause the Right to suddenly love you. The AFL-CIO kicking out communists didn’t cause a flood of corporate support for organized labor. What it means is that *YOU* become isolated at the leftmost post of the Overton Window, and instead of being “moderate” and “sensible” you now become the wild-eyed liberal. By contrast, the best way to appear “moderate” is to have groups a degree or two to the left of you. While you might differ with these, you include them and don’t seek to aid in their destruction. They are helping you get what you want.

    The Right gets this. Even after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Republicans suppressed investigations of rightwing militias and neo-fascist organizations in the US. Most Americans learned that Timothy McVeigh had been inspired by The Turner Diaries, a book described as merely being “anti-government” by the MSM but which is in reality a *neo-Nazi* book written by William Pierce, a book filled with images of the mass murder of African-Americans and Jews after its successful revolution.

    -StewartM

  22. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 29, 2011

    The demographic profile of gays shows them poorer than median. Certainly there are rich gays, as there are rich American blacks, of course. More to the point, they have traditionally asked for support from the left, it behooves them to return it, or lose it.

  23. Everythjngs Jake permalink
    June 29, 2011

    The gay community is not particularly united and it’s not fair to write us off collectively – movement gays (HRC, GLAAD, etc.) have increasingly been middle/upper-middle class whites concerned with gaining the “rights” to live like their heterosexual counterparts.

    There’s been a complete marginalization by those self-same “leaders” of the many non well-off gays who don’t want a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, 2 cars, a dog and 2.2 kids or even necessarily to get married.

    The split first showed up quite publicly in the 90s when we all (including impoverished AIDS stricken transexuals) were exorciated by the leaders for not getting behind their focus on gays and lesbians in the military. Concurrently, gay history started being rewritten (erasing the fact that Stonewall was started by Latina drag queens, not white gay “straight-acting jocks).

    Now, the gay movements have largely been co-opted by the dominant corporate orthodoxy (witness GLAAD’s letter of support for the AT&T – T-Mobile merger ironically dressing it up as increasing diversity) and the embrace of Ken Mehlman (the gay Lee Atwater) by Chelsea. West Hollywood has been turned into a playground for the rich that can’t wait to toss the poor (of any sexual orientation) out of their rent-cotnrol apartments.

    Sigh, we are a long way from the days when it semed Harvey Milk forged alliances with blue collar unions by, for example, getting gay bars to participate in the Coors beer boycott. Then the gay movements believed in their power to transform society and to address many important issues of social justice, such as single payer healthcare.

  24. StewartM permalink
    June 30, 2011

    EverythingsJake:

    … movement gays (HRC, GLAAD, etc.) have increasingly been middle/upper-middle class whites concerned with gaining the “rights” to live like their heterosexual counterparts.

    There’s been a complete marginalization by those self-same “leaders” of the many non well-off gays who don’t want a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, 2 cars, a dog and 2.2 kids or even necessarily to get married.

    Yep. As I said, the gay movement too has marginalized, pushed aside, and even attacked its own left too. Gay lifestyles that weren’t appealing to the middle class (leather boys, drag queens, etc) were shunted away from the limelight, radical faeries and their ilk were marginalized, and NAMBLA (some of whose founders were at Stonewall, I understand) were attacked and kicked out. That’s why people like Harry Hay (founder of the Mattachine Society, and a labor advocate) became disgusted with the white-bread “normalcy be-just-like-everyone-else goals of what’s become the mainstream gay rights movement.

    -StewartM

  25. Bruce Wilder permalink
    June 30, 2011

    The bourgeois takeover of gay rights took place a generation ago. The very fact that “gay marriage” is front-and-center as desideratum is a tribute to Republican conservatives like Andrew Sullivan. The HRC — the brown-paper wrapper of gay rights organizations — was always a rich man’s club, and GLAAD was always about giving parties, and hoping celebrities would show up.

    Be that as it may, Ian’s point — that the euphoria over this gay rights victory, and kind words for Cuomo, points up the weakness of the alliance that makes up the economic (or “socialist”) Left — still deserves explication, even if Ian’s desire to pound on the alleged perfidy of the gays is misguided.

    GLAAD’s endorsement of a cellphone company merger, like beer company sponsorship of gay pride events, is just life in a corporate plutonomy. It is no different that the NAACP whoring for Visa and the Banks, or that New Deal 2.0 subgroup taking money from the Peterson “Let-them-eat-catfood” group out to destroy Social Security.

    The economic Left, to have any real power, needs to have mass-membership organizations, in which the members have invested some of their personal identity. Feelings of solidarity are the political sine qua non of economic-Left politics. And, those feelings of solidarity have to reach the leadership of those organizations and/or the leadership has to be genuinely dependent on the membership for its elite status and livelihood, and the membership has to see the leadership deliver. It’s not transactional politics or identity politics — those are its pale ghosts. It is a politics of solidarity, and social identity follows from that, but the economics matters; the economics, centrally, includes a doctrine that allows followers and leadership to share an understanding of ends and means, which also explains the opposition of the opposition.

    Here’s a critical thing about mass-membership groups and organizations: they will include a lot of people, whose politics are founded, not on theory, but on attitude, and those attitudes will be the attitudes (in a psychological sense) of “right-wing authoritarian followers” (using Altemeyer’s psychological, not political terms). The Left cannot get to a large enough coalition in democratic politics, without taking large numbers of authoritarian followers away from the demagogues of the Right. And, the economic Left needs authoritarian followers, willing to submit to discipline and do the grunt work well, to develop the kind of militancy, which gives the Left a credible ability to mobilize mass opinion and mass action.

    In purely American political terms, the Progressives need the Populists (and the labor unions and the urban political machines), to enact an agenda.

    Historically, racism (and ethnic and sexual prejudice), for better and worse, drove a formation of political identity, which put large numbers of authoritarian followers into the Democratic Party, and kept the right-wing of the Republican Party blessedly small. The Solid South of white supremacy and populist politics, the big-city machines of Catholic ethnicity, the labor unions, even the faded Grange — these all formed a foundation of mass politics. And, they are all gone.

    What’s left on the Left are the descendants of the Progressives, with their upper-class prejudice (and self-interest), paternalism, and high-principles. And, their principled disdain for solidarity.

    To circle back to Ian’s point about the euphoria over Cuomo and Gay Marriage: it does reveal a cleavage on the Left. It’s the same cleavage we’ve seen growing steadily since a few insightful souls (not including me) first saw that Obama would be exactly the same as Bush.

    It’s the cleavage between those, who wish to preserve the existing order, even in its advancing decay, and those, however reluctantly, who have come to see a revolutionary imperative in that decay. It’s the cleavage between those, who wish to be players, no matter what the cost, and those, who see that the game must stop, must be broken.

    Even in the worst of times, liberals tend to make poor revolutionaries. We’re too reasonable to be effectively millitant Our instincts are always focused on incremental reform. The idea that the village must be destroyed to save it, comes hard, even when it is manifestly true. But, the imperatives of American decay into a plutonomy and a fascist state call for a destructive zeal.

    Real financial reform would literally destroy significant parts of the banking and financial sector. Real health care reform would literally destroy an economically signficant part of the health care and insurance sectors. Do I have to explain the economic implications for the military-industrial complex of ending the most expensive wars in American history?

    No one can make a career out of championing such destructive zeal, however, without a mass-movement, by mass-membership organizations, united by an economics (aka an ideology) that makes sense of the need for that destruction, and which can rationalize as meaningful the painful side-effects, while opposing effectively the cynical grasping of the would-be plutocracy.

    I don’t see betrayal in the support for Cuomo. What I see is that those still playing the Game are still playing the Game. And, people, who, broadly, share my views, aren’t. Maybe, there’s some probably ephmeral self-deception at the margin — people, who will do anything to avoid focusing on the logical implications of our economic situation and the economic policies pursued by alleged Democrats, celebrating a social and cultural advance. I understand: even if the ship is slowly sinking, jumping into the icy water doesn’t seem all the appealing. And, up in the first-class dining hall, sinking is just a rumor — only in steerage is anyone cold and wet.

  26. June 30, 2011

    Cuomo Will Seek to Lift Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/nyregion/cuomo-will-seek-to-lift-drilling-ban.html?hp

  27. jcapan permalink
    June 30, 2011

    Jesus christ, what Bruce Wilder just said. Nothing I could possibly add.

  28. Morocco Bama permalink
    June 30, 2011

    I second that, jcapan. Great analysis, Bruce. FYI, I was one of those who said Obama would be just like Bush…..even better……back in 2004 when he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention. It’s that transparent when the blinders come off.

  29. Morocco Bama permalink
    June 30, 2011

    There you go, Z, precisely the point. For anyone who has seen Gasland, you know what comes next. You may suffocate from the methane emissions and choke on the water, but at least you’ll die a married gay person, so it was all worth it………it always was thus.

  30. June 30, 2011

    Historically, racism (and ethnic and sexual prejudice), for better and worse, drove a formation of political identity, which put large numbers of authoritarian followers into the Democratic Party, and kept the right-wing of the Republican Party blessedly small. The Solid South of white supremacy and populist politics, the big-city machines of Catholic ethnicity, the labor unions, even the faded Grange — these all formed a foundation of mass politics. And, they are all gone.

    What’s left on the Left are the descendants of the Progressives, with their upper-class prejudice (and self-interest), paternalism, and high-principles. And, their principled disdain for solidarity.

    You identify the problem here, but you don’t identify the solution—understandably. A lot of people talk around it. If the left needs the authoritarian followers…how does one gain these groups without throwing some of the “identity” issues under the bus?

  31. StewartM permalink
    July 1, 2011

    Bruce Wilder:

    The Left cannot get to a large enough coalition in democratic politics, without taking large numbers of authoritarian followers away from the demagogues of the Right. And, the economic Left needs authoritarian followers, willing to submit to discipline and do the grunt work well, to develop the kind of militancy, which gives the Left a credible ability to mobilize mass opinion and mass action.

    I’ve noticed this as well, though not in those terms. I’ve noticed that the history of progressivism in the US seems to come in at least three distinctive flavors, and spread roughly about 100 years apart: a) those interested in furthering civil rights and personal liberties (think 1850s-1860s and 1950s-early 70s); b) those interested in social and economic equality among at least whites (think 1930s-50s, and possibly 1820s-1840, the Age of Jackson), and c) those interested in structural reforms for “fairer government” and anti-corruption (the early 20th century, and perhaps some of this in the early 19th, though that’s less straightfoward). And they don’t always work to advance the progressive cause as a whole: the Progressive Era was one where the rights of minorities went backward, not forward; the 1970s was the beginning of the growth of income and wealth inequality in America, and the 1930s-1950s was an era hostile to individual expression and being different.

    So are we always going to be forced to choose the hard hats vs the hippies and never have the best of both?

    An interesting aside is that if hunter-gatherers have both freedom AND equality, if the desire for security and autonomy is hardwired into us, why do we have the “authoritarian personality type” at all? I put this down to the fact that our culture arose from authoritarian lineage and still carries within it important centers of authoritarians–namely, our religion (for most God is portrayed a dictator), our families (we grow up under a dictatorship of Dad and Mom), and our workplaces (boss is a dictator too). As Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand, and as long as these institutions remain anti-democratic an appeal to authoritarianism will find more than a few followers.

    -StewartM

  32. Mudduck permalink
    July 1, 2011

    StewartM and Bruce Wilder both tell it how it is (i.e., how I see it). They raise the question, How can you play the game, in order to get by in the gamers’ world, and still work to change the game? How can you recognize that the leaders you are offered are servants of the oligarchy, but thank them when they allow some little benefit like marriage equality to make it through the system? Cuomo pulled a lot of forces together to achieve marriage equality, which will improve quality of life for many, and he’s STILL a Republican-lite bastard:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/58142.html

    As was pointed out above, we need to reduce the armed forces, close overseas military bases, and shutter the wasteful and greedy medical insurance companies — and doing so would put thousands of people out of work in a faltering economy. You can’t do only good. It does sound like destroying the village to save it. But the village is built on a sink hole. We may get our new start soon, whether we’re ready or not.

  33. anon2525 permalink
    July 1, 2011

    As was pointed out above, we need to reduce the armed forces, close overseas military bases, and shutter the wasteful and greedy medical insurance companies — and doing so would put thousands of people out of work in a faltering economy. You can’t do only good.

    To the contrary, it would be good to shut down these enterprises, among others, as these people are employed at high wages doing unproductive work to generate a private profit that is used to oppose any political action that would stop it and replace it with programs that, in fact, address the problems the country and the planet face. So long as those people are employed by those unproductive enterprises, their employment is part of the problem.

    It does sound like destroying the village to save it. But the village is built on a sink hole. We may get our new start soon, whether we’re ready or not.

    Unfortunately, that is the second time the “destroy the village to save it” metaphor has been used, above. Both times were incorrect. “Destroy the village to save it”, as many people know, originated during the Vietnam war, and it has since been a lesson that many Americans have not learned, which is that the ends did not justify the means. “Destroy a village to save it” is killing civilians. Killing civilians does not save them, it kills them.

    Wikipedia entry on ‘Tiger Force’
    Toledo Blade’s series of articles on the crimes committed by Tiger Force

    If people want to say “destroy a village,” then destroy it and replace it with something better. Do not mis-learn from historical crimes.

  34. Mudduck permalink
    July 2, 2011

    Another way to say “You can’t do only good” is “There are no side effects — only effects.” Every action has results you want, and results you may not want. People who want to think well of themselves tend to ignore the bad effects of their noble policies or to deny them. The unwanted consequences must be dealt with, if not in the planning, in the aftermath.

    “Destroy the village” is a historical allusion, not a direct analogy. All the things that Bruce Wilder mentioned need to be reformed or replaced — but doing so would destroy Business as Usual, the Powers That Be, the DC “Village” that Digby excoriates. (That’s a daunting prospect, so that it’s tempting just to try to run up a few points in the game, knowing that it’s rigged against you.) The present system is unsustainable and will be replaced, hopefully with arrangements more local. The village will be destroyed — the question is what will replace it.

  35. StewartM permalink
    July 2, 2011

    anon2525:

    Unfortunately, that is the second time the “destroy the village to save it” metaphor has been used, above.

    Ok, how ’bout the Titanic metaphor used by someone on this site? (I forget whom).

    The ship is foundering, icy water is coming in and drowning the passengers in steerage, and it’s ankle-deep for those in second class. Meanwhile, the parties are still going up for the first-class on deck in the grand ballrooms, life is still good, and of they tell each other that what’s happening in steerage might be deplorable (or might be “necessary discipline”) but hey, it’s not going to affect *them*, is it?

    And the icy water doesn’t look inviting, even in a lifeboat, let alone in a life jacket.

    -StewartM

  36. anon2525 permalink
    July 2, 2011

    Ok, how ’bout the Titanic metaphor used by someone on this site?

    That metaphor has been used many times, on this site and throughout the internet. It is a long discussion about how that metaphor would be applied to the current state of the world.

    When the “destroy the village in order to save it” excuse was first used, it really amounted to avoiding saying “We killed all of the civilians, and now we are grasping at straws, trying to find some way to change the subject and excuse our crime.” That expression is short and sounds applicable to many situations where those situations need a complete overhaul or revolution. But it not appropriate because what the expression is saying is “We committed a horrible crime, and don’t want to be held accountable for it.” After all, you cannot hold someone accountable who was trying to “save” a village. That’s a laudable ends. Therefore, it must be able to justify the means (killing all of the civilians). Or, so the actors in the crime would have us believe.

    It’s possible that I have misunderstood the writers who used the expression. Maybe they wanted to say “We’re going to have to commit a (moral or legal) crime in order to solve the problem, but it will be worth it.” If so, then they used it appropriately.

  37. anon2525 permalink
    July 2, 2011

    Slightly off-topic: In his interview on Democracy Now!, Christian Parenti brought up the following statistic:

    “An interesting fact, in World War I, 5% of casualties were civilians. World War II, it was 50%, by Vietnam it was 80% now it’s up to 90%.”

    I remember during discussions leading up to the bush/cheney-ordered invasion of Iraq mentioning how many civilians were going to be killed in order to “get Saddam,” and asking people “Haven’t we learned anything from ‘destroy the village in order to save it’?”, and being told, “No, the u.s. has not learned any lesson from that.”

    I bring this up because it ought to be clear to everyone in the u.s. (our country is carrying out this killing), that whenever anyone here argues for “war,” what they are in effect arguing for is the killing of large numbers and large proportions of civilians. War is no longer “men going off to battlefields,” and hasn’t been for almost a century. Men saw what that was like in the first world war, and have avoided it ever since. Now it is men killing women and children and some other men, almost all of whom are unarmed.

    We’ll know that this has been learned when people stop “honoring the sacrifice” made by soldiers, and start condemning them for participating in the system that commits these crimes. We can start with the people who occupy the buildings in nevada and control the unmanned drones (zero “soldiers” killed) that are sent into A. and P.

  38. Mudduck permalink
    July 2, 2011

    Idiom police:

    http://www.gocomics.com/candorville/2011/07/02

    (I agree that members of the armed forces don’t make a sacrifice — they are the sacrifice.

  39. July 2, 2011

    It means overcoming the conflict between the “identity” left and the “economic” left that is not a simple or trivial one. The “economic” left often treats the “identity” concerns as peripheral, so the latter has a motivation to defect.

    Frankly it seems to me that as a description of the American left this is precisely backwards. Further, the attempt to wedge the two apart, it seems to me, is a description more of right-wing strategy than left-wing mores. And just how did the NDP manage to surpass the Liberals to become the #2 party in Canada last election? Populist politics. Are they a parochial or ethnocentric party? Hardly, they’ve been in the forefront of minority rights for decades. So I’m not sure the Hobson’s choice between fairness and populist economics being presented in this discussion is entirely honest. (To be perfectly honest I find it smacks of Jonah Goldberg’s ravings.)

    BTW, it appears DKos just couldn’t let Ian’s heresy go unanswered. Crashing Vor’s [sic] rebuttal, if indeed I am correct in presuming that that’s what it’s intended to be (he doesn’t reference Ian’s post anywhere), is magnificent in its soaring vacuity and failure to engage on a single meaningful point.

  40. StewartM permalink
    July 2, 2011

    anon2525:

    Slightly off-topic: In his interview on Democracy Now!, Christian Parenti brought up the following statistic:

    “An interesting fact, in World War I, 5% of casualties were civilians. World War II, it was 50%, by Vietnam it was 80% now it’s up to 90%.”

    I had a similar discussion with someone of the “kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out” mentality.

    My example in that discussion of our fall from grace when it comes to morality and warfare? None other than Robert E. Lee.

    Mind you, I know he’s a Confederate general and a slaveowner. But hear me out.

    When Lee’s army invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, it occasioned that some Pennsylvanian civilians took up arms and took potshots at Lee’s soldiers. Lee’s response? Summary hangings? Mass random executions? Burning of whole towns? No, Lee merely disarmed such civilians.

    Now, I’m not saying such gentleness was the norm in the US Civil War–heaven’s, no. But what I am saying about this example is this: Lee thought the world of his soldiers, calling them the best in the world, and they lived up to his opinion. But despite this, Lee drew an old-fashioned line between soldiers and civilians and where the risk should lie. As much as he admired his soldiers, Lee realized that running the risk of being killed and maimed was part and parcel of their job description, whereas babies don’t sign up for war. War should touch civilians as little as possible.

    Nowadays, we celebrate “our boys” so much that we would rather 100,000 foreign babies die than one American serviceman or woman get a scratch. And we fight our wars that way now too: tons of ordinance unloaded on the enemy and mayhem inflicted, inflicted on the civilian populace as well, even before a US serviceman steps within rifle range.

    As an aside, the stupid rag Southern Partisan had an article about which Civil War general most resembled Norman Schwarzkopf’s conduct of Gulf War I. One choice was William T. Sherman, and I think the other was Lee or Beford Forrest. They predictably and laughably chose the Confederate option.

    But both were wrong. Schwarzkopf’s conduct of Gulf War I was right out of the playbook of none other than George B. McClellan, conspicuous for his reliance on logistical superiority and avoidance of any sort of risk whatsoever. Waiting more than a month while his air force hammered the enemy to a pulp before taking a single step forward in fear of casualties sounds hardly “daring”, it’s ultraconservative. A truly daring commander wouldn’t have dawdled so. The Israelis wouldn’t have.

    -StewartM

  41. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 3, 2011

    The Israeli army isn’t their grandfather’s or even their father’s. They’ve been corrupted by occupation, great at beating up badly trained and equipped Hamas fighters, but they got bloodied bad by Hezbollah last time around.

    Occupation always corrupts and weakens armies for battlefield duties.

  42. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 3, 2011

    Yes, there are right wingers who are economically populist and socially conservative. What needs to be done is not so much to pander to them on social issues as to convince them that economic issues are more important.

    The way I would put it is that in Europe the folks who are incipiently violent are on the left, in the US, they are on the right. That’s why, despite how hard many European countries are getting screwed, there is hope. Because the elites need to know fear.

    And I predict that soon enough Greek elites are going to understand that if they want to live in Greece they had better do what the population wants, or they won’t stay alive in Greece. That is unfortunate, because such violence is deeply distasteful and much evil will occur, but those who make fixing existential problems non-violently impossible should expect that someone will try to fix them violently.

  43. anon2525 permalink
    July 3, 2011

    And I predict that soon enough Greek elites are going to understand that if they want to live in Greece they had better do what the population wants, or they won’t stay alive in Greece. That is unfortunate, because such violence is deeply distasteful and much evil will occur,…

    To quote the earlier Ian Welsh of June 11, “Everything is about trade-offs. People are dying right now because of the way the world and specific countries are being run…. I look at the people dying for lack of health care, food and housing. Westerners are already dying. You’re already dying. You’re already being killed. You or your friends or loved ones already don’t have jobs because of the oligarchy…Any moral calculus has to take into account the people already suffering, the people already dying.”

    So, is it “unfortunate” that violence against a small number of people is required to prevent the economic violence to which a large number of people are being subjected?

    …but those who make fixing existential problems non-violently impossible should expect that someone will try to fix them violently.

    “Those who would make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable” — John Kennedy

  44. July 3, 2011

    Frankly it seems to me that as a description of the American left this is precisely backwards. Further, the attempt to wedge the two apart, it seems to me, is a description more of right-wing strategy than left-wing mores. And just how did the NDP manage to surpass the Liberals to become the #2 party in Canada last election? Populist politics.

    Yes, but the social and cultural context of Canada and the USA are different, speaking as someone who watches both up close. It’s no coincidence that the bulk of the NDP advance came from Quebec, which as soon as it was willing to drop its linguistic nationalism at the federal level, found it easy to marry its economic populism and its social liberalism. That is the legacy of the Quiet Revolution.

    The NDP had a harder time in the more American-influenced English-speaking parts of Canada, because in large parts of post-Trudeau Canada, economic populism is identified with the social right.

    The USA has a hard time marrying economic populism and social liberalism for deep-seated cultural reasons that aren’t mere distractions to frustrate the aspirations of leftists.

  45. July 3, 2011

    The NDP had a harder time in the more American-influenced English-speaking parts of Canada, because in large parts of post-Trudeau Canada, economic populism is identified with the social right.

    Trying to bullshit another Canadian about Canadian politics on a Canadian’s blog isn’t such a smart move, Mandos.

  46. July 3, 2011

    Um. I’m very certain that I know what I’m talking about and that you’re not correct, Canadian though you may be. The NDPs biggest increase came in Quebec and that is no accident; many Liberal collapses in the RoC went to Stephen Harper. Go argue with the numbers.

Comments are closed.