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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 05:59 AM Thread Starter
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The American Left's Silly Victim Complex




"Apocalypse Now", Jill Greenberg

The biggest problem with modern American liberalism may be the word itself. There’s just something about the word, liberal, something about the way it sounds – it just hits the ear wrong. If it were an animal it would be something squirming and hairless, something that burrows maybe, with no eyes and too many legs. No child would bring home a wounded liberal and ask to keep it as a pet. More likely he would step on it, or maybe tie it to a bottle-rocket and shoot it over the railroad tracks.

The word has a chilling effect even on the people who basically agree with most of what it stands for. I myself cringe, involuntarily as it were, every time someone calls me a liberal in public. And I’m not the only one. When I called around for this article about the problems of American liberalism to various colleagues who inhabit the same world that I do – iconoclastic columnists and journalists who’ve had bylines in places like The Nation – they almost universally recoiled in horror from the topic, not wanting to be explicitly linked in public with the idea of the American left.

“Fuck that,” responded one, when I asked if he wanted to be quoted in this piece. “I’d rather talk about my genital warts. I’d rather show you pictures of my genital warts, as a matter of fact.”

“Ugh. Not sure I want to go there,” read one e-mail.

“I really wish I wasn’t associated with the left,” sighed a third.

When the people who are the public voice of a political class are afraid to even wear the party colors in public, that’s a bad sign, and it’s worth asking what the reasons are.

A lot of it, surely, has to do with the relentless abuse liberalism takes in the right-wing media, on Fox and afternoon radio, and amid the Townhall.com network of newspaper invective-hurlers. The same dynamic that makes the junior high school kid fear the word “fag” surely has many of us frightened of the word “liberal.” Mike Savage says liberalism is a mental disorder, Sean Hannity equates liberals with terrorists, Ann Coulter says that “liberals love America like O.J. loved Nicole.” These people have a broad, monolithic audience whose impassioned opinions are increasingly entrenched. In the pseudo-Orwellian political landscape that is modern America, to self-identify as a liberal is almost tantamount to thoughtcrime, a dangerous admission that carries with it the very real risk of instantly and permanently alienating a good half of the population, in particular most of middle America. That reason alone makes it, in a way, wrong and cowardly to abandon liberalism and liberals. If Ann Coulter wants to call all of us fags, well, then, fine, I’m a fag. For the sake of that fight, I’ll stay a liberal till the end of time. But between you and me, between all of us on that side of things, liberalism needs to be fixed.

At a time when someone should be organizing forcefully against the war in Iraq and engaging middle America on the alarming issue of big-business occupation of the Washington power process, the American left has turned into a skittish, hysterical old lady, one who defiantly insists on living in the past, is easily mesmerized by half-baked pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and quick to run from anything like real conflict or responsibility.



It shies away from hardcore economic issues but howls endlessly about anything that sounds like a free-speech controversy, shrieking about the notorious bugbears of the post-9/11 “police state” (the Patriot Act, Total Information Awareness, CARNIVORE, etc.) in a way that reveals unmistakably, to those who are paying close attention, a not-so-secret desire to be relevant and threatening enough to warrant the extralegal attention of the FBI. It sells scads of Che t-shirts ($20 at the International ANSWER online store) and has a perfected a high-handed tone of moralistic finger-wagging, but its organizational capacity is almost nil. It says a lot, but does very little.

The sad truth is that if the FBI really is following anyone on the American left, it is engaging in a huge waste of time and personnel. No matter what it claims for a self-image, in reality it’s the saddest collection of cowering, ineffectual ninnies ever assembled under one banner on God’s green earth. And its ugly little secret is that it really doesn’t mind being in the position it’s in – politically irrelevant and permanently relegated to the sidelines, tucked into its cozy little cottage industry of polysyllabic, ivory tower criticism. When you get right down to it, the American left is basically just a noisy Upper West side cocktail party for the college-graduate class.

And we all know it. The question is, when will we finally admit it?

Here’s the real problem with American liberalism: there is no such thing, not really. What we call American liberalism is really a kind of genetic mutant, a Frankenstein’s monster of incongruous parts – a fat, affluent, overeducated New York/Washington head crudely screwed onto the withering corpse of the vanishing middle-American manufacturing class. These days the Roosevelt stratum of rich East Coasters are still liberals, but the industrial middle class that the New Deal helped create is almost all gone. In 1965, manufacturing jobs still made up 53 percent of the US economy; that number was down to nine percent in 2004, and no one has stepped up to talk to the 30 million working poor who struggle to get by on low-wage, part-time jobs.

Thus, the people who are the public voice of American liberalism rarely have any real connection to the ordinary working people whose interests they putatively champion. They tend instead to be well-off, college-educated yuppies from California or the East Coast, and hard as they try to worry about food stamps or veterans’ rights or securing federal assistance for heating oil bills, they invariably gravitate instead to things that actually matter to them – like the slick Al Gore documentary on global warming, or the “All Things Considered” interview on NPR with the British author of Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. They haven’t yet come up with something to replace the synergy of patrician and middle-class interests that the New Deal represented.

Bernie Sanders, the new Senator from Vermont and one of the few American politicians in history to have survived publicly admitting to being a socialist, agrees that this peculiar demographic schism is a fundamental problem for the American political opposition.

“Unfortunately, today, when you talk about the ‘American left,’” he says, “as often as not you’re talking about wealthy folks who are concerned about the environment (which is enormously important) who are concerned about women’s rights (which are enormously important) and who are concerned about gay rights (which are enormously important).

“But you’re not really referring to millions of workers who have lost their jobs because of disastrous trade agreements,” he says. “You’re not talking about waitresses who are working for four bucks an hour.” As often as not, he says, you’re talking about “sophisticated people who have money.”

David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government – and How We Can Take it Back, is a guy who frequently appears on television news programs defending the “left” in TV’s typical Crossfire-style left-right rock-‘em-sock-‘em format. Like a lot of people who make their living in this world, he’s sometimes frustrated with the lack of discipline and purpose in American liberalism. And like Sanders, he worries that there is a wide chasm between the people who speak for the left and sponsor left-leaning political organizations, and the actual people they supposedly represent.

“Perhaps what the real issue is that the left is not really a grassroots movement,” he says. “You have this donor/elite class, and then you have the public . . . You have these zillionaires who are supposedly funding the progressive movement. At some point that gets to be a problem.”

Sanders agrees, saying that “where the money comes from” is definitely one of the reasons that the so-called liberals in Washington – i.e. the Democrats – tend not to get too heavily into financial issues that affect ordinary people. This basically regressive electoral formula has been a staple of the Democratic Party ever since the Walter Mondale fiasco in the mid-eighties prompted a few shrewd Washington insiders to create the notorious “pro-business” political formula of the Democratic Leadership Council, which sought to end the party’s dependence upon labor money by announcing a new willingness to sell out on financial issues in exchange for support from Wall Street. Once the DLC’s financial strategy helped get Bill Clinton elected, no one in Washington ever again bothered to question the wisdom of the political compromises it required.

Within a decade, the process was automatic – Citibank gives money to Tom Daschle, Tom Daschle crafts the hideous Bankruptcy Bill, and suddenly the Midwestern union member who was laid off in the wake of Democrat-passed NAFTA can’t even declare bankruptcy to get out from the credit card debt he incurred in his unemployment. He will now probably suck eggs for the rest of his life, paying off credit card debt year after year at a snail’s pace while working as a non-union butcher in a Wal-Mart in Butte. Royally screwed twice by the Democratic Party he voted for, he will almost certainly decide to vote Republican the first time he opens up the door to find four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna.

But money and campaign contributions aren’t the only reason “liberal“ politicians screw their voters.

more at: http://adbusters.org/the_magazine/71...m_Complex.html
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 06:45 AM
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I endorse this message, especially the last few paragraphs regarding the Democrat Party sellout process and its aftermath. I jettisoned the term Liberal primarily because it's associated with the party and doesn't accurately reflect my views and philosophy, 'cause it lumps me in with a bunch of party weasels I can't stomach.

One of the reasons I got involved with the Greens "back in the day" was not because of their environmental stuff--truth is, I'm a rather tepid environmentalist--but rather because I saw them as a means to address interests in social justice issues relating to income inequality and working class struggles; just the kind of concerns abandoned by the Dems long ago.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 06:59 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Zeitgeist
I endorse this message, especially the last few paragraphs regarding the Democrat Party sellout process and its aftermath. I jettisoned the term Liberal primarily because it's associated with the party and doesn't accurately reflect my views and philosophy, 'cause it lumps me in with a bunch of party weasels I can't stomach.

One of the reasons I got involved with the Greens "back in the day" was not because of their environmental stuff--truth is, I'm a rather tepid environmentalist--but rather because I saw them as a means to address interests in social justice issues relating to income inequality and working class struggles; just the kind of concerns abandoned by the Dems long ago.
Though the author and I do not share a common political perspective, I believe her criticism is thoughtful, accurate and is an excellent piece of writing.

You and I have taken obviously different tracks in avoiding the term, "liberal", which I once considered myself. My loathing for the Democrat Party is only slightly greater than the revulsion I feel toward the Republican Party. I have no party, but I find myself wasting my vote on the Libertarian Party rather than wasting it on the other two.

Is it simply age and experience that gives me the increasingly jaundiced eye and fatigue from party politics or have things REALLY gotten worse over the decades that I've been a voter?

B
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Botnst
Though the author and I do not share a common political perspective, I believe her criticism is thoughtful, accurate and is an excellent piece of writing.

My loathing for the Democrat Party is only slightly greater than the revulsion I feel toward the Republican Party. I have no party, but I find myself wasting my vote on the Libertarian Party rather than wasting it on the other two.

Is it simply age and experience that gives me the increasingly jaundiced eye and fatigue from party politics or have things REALLY gotten worse over the decades that I've been a voter?

B
I have to agree with your statements. Although I do not spend my vote on the Libertarian party I do find myself voting against candidates and not for them.

I truly think that things have gotten worse over the last several decades. Unfortunatly I think they are going to continue to get worse for at least the short to mid-term.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botnst

.............Is it simply age and experience that gives me the increasingly jaundiced eye and fatigue from party politics or have things REALLY gotten worse over the decades that I've been a voter?

B

Unfortunately, worse by far, and neither side of the aisle can claim to have taken the high road, with any credibility whatsoever.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 08:09 AM
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I think your perception is accurate, Bot. Reagan set the bar higher than most people realized, and even then he wasn't without fault. So, if you think about it, since 1989 when he departed, only three people have been President - two of them have been named Bush. 41, Clinton, then 43. Yeah, I think it's safe to say that the last couple of decades have seen some pretty sub-par leadership, execution, and/or integrity in Washington.

Of course, Reagan followed Carter, who people seemed to roundly despise (I was only 7 at the time and I remember songs about Carter set to the Oscar Mayer theme song. That's not bandwagon hopping conservative talk show hosts - this is basically pre-Cable, pre-talk radio, pre-Rush, etc.).

Similarly, the election of 43 was borne of such hostility toward Clinton, that I don't think it mattered whether or not we were electing George Bush...the "winner" in that climate among that field was destined to be toxic.

You don't need to guess which upstanding gentlemen Carter followed - Nixon, and then Ford for too short a time to do much but keep the lights on. That lineage pre-dates my birth. I've seen Nixon (briefly), Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. as Presidents in my life. The track record certainly speaks loudly. It says that Reagan was an anomaly, and that party politics don't serve the public interest.

The more I think about the French election system, the more I like it. Too bad the country is full of proud yet cowardly frogs.

Oh, and I agree almost completely with what the author says in this piece. I've been slamming "liberals" for paying lip service to the poor for years, basically mandating that everyone (rich and poor alike) pay more in taxes as a form of socialistic wealth redistribution. The problems they want to solve are theirs alone...the older I get, the more convinced I am that the wealthy owe society an obligation to be philanthropic. I don't mean that they should give it all away, but I do mean that they shouldn't horde it. The government does a poor job at social programs - rich people can have very efficient, lean, and effective organizations (Gates, Clinton, Buffett, etc) that can do a lot of good here and abroad. If you won't put your own money where your mouth is, especially as a public figure or elected official, you're toxically insincere.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 08:17 AM
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Just more of the same crap engaged in by GOP fascists for the last ten years to equate the term "liberal" with other terms they love to use, like "nigger" and "kike".

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by FeelTheLove
Just more of the same crap engaged in by GOP fascists for the last ten years to equate the term "liberal" with other terms they love to use, like "nigger" and "kike".
Only in your alleged mind FoTL.

"Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon, the pigeon knocks over all the pieces, on the board and then struts around like it won the game."
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 08:27 AM
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Just more of the same crap engaged in by GOP fascists for the last ten years to equate the term "liberal" with other terms they love to use, like "nigger" and "kike".

Ahhh yes. The time honored tradition of playing the race card when you have no substantive argument.

Way to contribute to the conversation in a positive manner. Just what I have come to expect.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-14-2007, 02:50 PM
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Bot, did you smush two articles into one? The first half seemed like it was written by one person then tagteamed by an adult for the second half.

I agree with much of what the second half had to say up to a point. Much of that view is relegated to the Beltway, NY and California. I think when you see LIBERALS in the real America, away from the slick Politicians and Mediaheads you see folks that look at everything from the Environment to Women’s Rights down to the plights of the waitress making $4.00 per hour and the offshoring of work which puts entire towns out of work.

They don't seem to see that in DC any longer. They really don't see it in the media centers of NY or LA. And that is the shame since the Media now forms the opinion for many on the left and right.

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Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.
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