Monthly Archives: April 2009

Specter to switch parties…?

MSNBC is now reporting confirmation from Senator Arlen Specter’s office that he is in fact switching parties. The Washington Post apparently broke the news minutes ago.

I don’t have time to write a long post on this. But this is going to be interesting. Specter is not going to suddenly become a raging progressive but will be more Leibermanesque I would have to guess. So, in theory, the Democrats have the much sought after 60th vote. But what will they have to do to get that 60th vote on board?

The changing demographics in Pennsylvania brought this about. Progressives in Pennsylvania will be better off with Specter rather than Toomey — and it appears those were the two choices because the Democratic challenger is said to not have been likely to beat either one. The DNC must have agreed since they accepted Specter’s switch.

But still, there will be a tendency for Specter to try, naturally enough, to pull the Democratic caucus to the right. The progressives in Specter’s new constituency, naturally enough, will resist that pull and work instead to bring him further to the left.

How this all plays out will be fascinating. My initial guess is that Leiberman will play no small role in the drama that unfolds.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo makes an interesting point about the effect of last year’s presidential election on the makeup of the parties in Pennsylvania.

UPDATE: David Frum, who by my lights is no moderate but is regularly called a moderate, a liberal, a squish and even a Canadian by the far rightwingers, writes this and quotes this at New Majority.

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Competing realities and divergent uptakes

If you need any more proof that human perception of reality is partial, in both senses of the word, look at the varying ways people of differing political and ideological inclinations subjectively perceive events.

People with different, especially opposing, points of view can look at the same event and come away with diametrically opposed opinions of what took place. And if the event is a disputatious interaction involving one actor they identify with and another actor they most assuredly do not identify with, then their — our — perceptions of what happened and who ‘won’ can be particularly divergent.

Take for instance two recent interactions getting attention in both left and right online communities: an exchange between Al Gore and Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and an exchange between Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz and MSNBC host Nora O’Donnell.

Posters and commenters on the right think Cheney and Blackburn were without doubt the clear victors while their counterparts on the left are equally certain that the exact opposite is true. I, not surprisingly, am in the latter camp but a Google search shows how contested the perceptions are.

Do I think people on the right are lying or somehow disingenuously spinning just to put a happy face on what they in fact know are defeats for their champions?

No, I do not. I think they are just as sure that the people advocating their worldview ‘won’ as I am that they were smacked down. Why is this?

It’s probably because, while we see the same interactions, we see them very, very differently. One commenter at NationalJournal.com was so angry, he wrote the following:

Listen to youself Nora, you should lined up against a wall and shot.
Thomas J Smith | April 24, 2009 8:45 PM

It seems clear to me that Blackburn and Cheney received smack downs and did not make their points. But someone on the right would almost certainly think the opposite. We watch and interpret the interactions with different sets of filters, already held beliefs, biases and presuppositions that affect the way we take up the exchanges.

A couple of questions emerge:

  • how do people on with different worldviews even talk to each other rationally, let alone engage in civic and civil debate, when such broad gulfs separate our perceptions?
  • how does each side best convince moderates that their interpretation of events is accurate and the alternative interpretation is flawed?

Regarding the second question, it seems clear that we on the left are winning over enough moderates that our interpretations prevail, just as the opposite had been the case in previous times. But, as that history of varying fortunes for both those on the left and the right indicates, we cannot presume that the current ascendancy of the left will morph into a permanent state of affairs.

That means that the first question is, ultimately, the most relevant. There will always be those, like the 20-30% who still believe dubya was the best president ever, who will never be open to persuasion from the left. But there are right leaning moderates who can be reached. Not catered to, but convinced.

It should be a long term project for us on the left to persuade people in this group that they should cleave themselves from the dead enders on the extreme right and come back to the idea that compromise is not capitulation.

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Faux outrage and conservative Republican victimhood

While it is of course a universal human train, many conservatives and Republicans seem to be especially prone to persecution complexes and righteous displays of feigned anger. When their sense of victimhood is not acknowledged or when their faux rage is not catered to, they generally just up the ante (or try to).

It has worked for them in the past. So, it is not surprising that they are dusting off the old play book after 8 year long sustained power grab during the last administration.

But the time for that ploy seems to have passed. Americans just aren’t going for it these days. It was successful, up to a point, during the Clinton administration and in 2000, 2002 and 2004. But the scorched earth tactics of obstruction and rejection now just look haggard and shop worn.

Americans in general are inclined to give the Obama administration a chance. That does not mean we do not have problems with his stances and policies. Many, like myself, criticize him from the left. Others from the middle and still others from the non fringe right. But, still, most are willing to give the administration and chance and hope that it will succeed in dealing with the various challenges the last administration created.

But then there are those on the far right, carping and hoping for failure. They actually believe they will benefit if this administration fails, with their help, to resolve the problems we face. They think we are not watching and noticing.

Where are the sane conservatives and Republicans who truly will put country before party? Where are the rational voices who will reject the birth certificate conspiracy theorists and those who call Obama a socialist and, simultaneously, a fascist? Where are the Republicans and conservatives who will reject and denounce Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity and Cheney?

What future is there for a Party of No and movement that only hopes for failure?

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Disgusting rightwing Republicans hope for mass casualty attack and think dead Americans = Republican Renaissance

These people are utterly without shame and need to be called out.

Noted moron and cheerleader for our failure and death, Erick Erickson, is at it again:

How Many Americans Will Die Because of Barack Obama’s Weak National Security Leadership?

This mouth breathing ethical debtor, like the zombie Cheney, cannot restrain his hope for another terr’ist attack. They actually believe they will be able to turn it to their advantage.

a commenter adds, without refutation

And the sooner they die the better.
Tbone Tuesday, April 21st at 10:42PM EDT (link)
Yep, we might as well face it. There will be a terror attack and it just may be the catalyst to turn the 15% of white, middle class taxpayers who voted for Obama into realists.

So, quit bemoaning what is coming because Obama, Pelosi and Reid are NOT going to change their direction. My only hope is that it is in a real blue city in a real blue state.

Envisioning when all that is Left is the Right.

Redstate.com is notorious for quickly deleting, or ‘blamming’ anyone who deviates one iota from their hymnal. If this comment remains un’blammed’ then we know where these hypocrites stand.

And they wonder why the American people continue to reject their bitter partisan delusion that, if we fail and suffer enough death and destruction, we’ll come crawling back to them.

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the boneyard

A common recent refrain from many on the right in response to any criticism, or even any coverage, of Sarah Palin is that the criticism or even basic attention is proof positive that everyone to the left of Sean Hannity is shaking in their boots at the mere thought of the mighty moose hunter. This theme also now occurs in response to coverage of Louisiana governor and potential 2012 Republican candidate Bobby Jindal.

It must be a satisfying response. Those who engage in it can assure themselves that their champion flusters and even horrifies their opposition. It’s at the same time hopeful for their future and contemptuous of their adversaries. It presupposes that liberals, progressives, leftists and Democrats are nefariously working even today to undermine the great white hope of the Republican party and the conservative movement.

It shows that we on the left don’t fight fair, that we have to underhandedly cripple legitimate opposition ahead of time in a devious attempt to prevent a fair fight. Taking this position also allows conservatives Republicans to feel good about their potential candidates now and in the future. Yes. They will drink from the cup of victory in the future.

But. They don’t even have to wait till the next election to enjoy the suffering of their opponents. They can drink in the sweet tasting horror of their opponents right now. So, I understand why conservative Republicans would so desperately embrace the idea that everyone on the left is suffering great trepidation at the mere existence of a few humble salt of the earth “real Americans” on the right who we just know are going to clean our clocks unless we hamstring them right now. With the help of our friends in the lib’rul media of course.

But, while it may palliate the stings of their recent and ongoing rejections at the hands of the American people, this is a dangerous drink for the conservative Republicans to imbibe. It closes them ever more completely in their cocoon, dragging them deeper into their already profound stupor of self delusion and denial.

We on the left are happy to point to the extremist raving of people like Palin and Jindal not because we fear them. Many of us are desperately hoping that those two are in fact on the Republican ticket the next time around. We understand that they are on the fringe of American public opinion. We understand that, should the Republicans cater again to the rightwing of their party and front either or both of these two, they will lose again.

They will not just lose the race for the presidency, but they will lose much ground in congress, they will lose governorships and they will lose in the state legislatures. There won’t even be many Republican dog catchers left if they go this route.

So, let them think we fear the likes of Palin and Jindal. The louder they whistle, the less chance they have of noticing their own names on the big stones in the yard they’re walking through.

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too easy of a dismissal?

It’s certainly easy to make no end of fun of and dismiss conservatives and Republicans these days. But, while it’s all well and good to engage in a little schadenfreude, we progressives would do well to avoid just the kind of hubristic triumphalism our political and ideological adversaries were engaging in not too long ago at a time when our side of the street was not so drenched in sun.

For a long time, I’ve paid what sometimes seems inordinate attention to the rhetoric emanating from various quarters on the right. But researching the opposition is generally a worthwhile strategy that pays dividends. These dividends range from the obvious benefits that accrue from knowing what your adversaries are saying and doing to object lessons, both positive and negative.

Karl Rove erred in proclaiming a permanent Republican majority. Despite what seems to be convincing evidence of opposite trends, I do think it is good judgment to exercise caution in proclaiming final victory too soon. After all, in spite of the kookiness, this is serious.

Dave Johnson at Huffington Post presents a good argument:

We laughed then, too, and how did that work out? They took over the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Then they started wars. They tortured people. They appointed corporate lobbyists to run every agency. They filled the courts with Federalist Society judges that rule for the corporations and religious right every time. They stole billions — in one documented case actually having the Fed ship truckloads of pallets of hundred dollar bills directly to Iraq to be distributed to Bush cronies. They destroyed the economy of the world. And they worked hard to destroy the world itself — the arctic is melting, the fisheries are depleted, the resources are plundered… And they get away with it — who is being held accountable for any of that?

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The US is *not* a christian nation

This post is in honor of Blog Against Theocracy 2009.

Obama recently drew some heat for saying that we’re no longer just a christian nation. I would have said we never were, but I’m glad he at least acknowledged this much.

We’ll probably never stop hearing conservatives and republicans, as well as some moderates, liberals and democrats, claiming that “this is a christian nation.” But that doesn’t mean they’re right. Of course, they’re very, very wrong.

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Why the big deal? Because there’s an insidious “but some animals are more equal than others” tone to this assertion, especially since it usually comes, and comes most shrilly, from people on the authoritarian rightwing side of the room.

I’m not catholic, in fact, I’m second generation lapsed catholic. But I was baptized and while I have no end of criticisms for the catholic church, there’s a certain brand of catholic bashing that comes from conservative protestants that really riles me. It’s not that I feel some need to defend the dogma or theology of catholicism.

No. It’s a reaction to perceived anti catholic bias, by which I mean ancient anti immigrant, bigotry. The Know-Nothings and the KKK were often as much anti catholic as racist. Al Smith lost in his bid for the presidency because enough “real Amer’cuns” believed he was a slave to Rome. Kennedy had to practically genuflect to protestant ministers to allay the same fear. I’ve actually heard people these days claim catholics aren’t christian.

This is a round about way of saying that the notion of America as a “christian nation” was not too long ago much more narrowly interpreted. It was a way to exclude certain groups of people who were not considered real Americans. And, when I hear people on the right loudly and belligerently assert that “we’re a christian nation,” I hear echoes of that same tone.

It’s a way to exclude not only people of other faiths, but also people who don’t believe in any religion. It’s a subtle way to ascribe to them – to me and so many others – second class citizenship, as if to say “we’ll tolerate your presence, at least just barely, but you’d better keep quiet if you know what’s good for you.”

Well, screw that. America is not and never was a christian nation. The founders were mostly deists who had the wisdom to keep government free from religion, basing our constitution instead on enlightenment ideals regarding humanity and equal rights for all.

So, the next time you hear someone casually state that we’re a christian nation, think about the undertones of such an assertion. The fact that someone like Pat Buchanan gets so worked up* when challenged on the issue says a lot about how important it is to contend.

* I know I’ve seen video of Buchanan totally losing it when some other guest on a cable chat show contends otherwise, but haven’t been able to find it. If anyone knows of a link…

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