Tonight for Halloween I'm dressing as this televised debate between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky
Full post plus comments
The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.
More than one in five (22%) Likely New York State Voters (registered voters who plan to vote in this November's elections and have a history of voting in similar elections) are either "very" (7%) or "somewhat" (15%) likely to leave New York State in the next four years, according to a new poll conducted by The Pace Poll at Pace University in cooperation with New York Magazine, WNYC, and WCBS 2 News.
The net effect of the neoliberal economic policies imposed in recent decades has been to push economic and social responsibility away from employers and government and onto private households. The stress on households is intensifying, as people try to do more with less. Care for children and the elderly, for the ill and disabled, has been shifted toward unpaid women at home or to low-paid, privately employed female domestic workers. In this context, household stability becomes a life-and-death issue. On whom do we depend when we can't take care of ourselves? If Social Security shrinks or disappears and your company sheds your pension fund, what happens to you when you can no longer work? In more and more cases, the sole remaining resource is the cooperative, mutually supporting household or kinship network.
But if marriage is the symbolic and legal anchor for households and kinship networks, and marriage is increasingly unstable, how reliable will that source of support be? In the context of these questions, the big flap over marriage in this election begins to make a different kind of sense. If voters are not particularly homophobic, but they are overwhelmingly insecure, then the call to "preserve" marriage might have produced a referendum vote on the desire for household security, with the damage to gay equality caught up in its wake.
Civil unions for all couples acknowledge that there is meaning in the word marriage, and that it has a dark side.
It's reasonable to hope that someday couples seeking a legal status will go to a county building for a civil union, and those seeking a religious status will go to a house of worship. A couple seeking both would make two stops.
Some advocates for gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are demanding that the Legislature give them marriage, not civil unions, because a separate status for same-sex couples is discrimination. They're right, but it's discrimination that works both ways. Different-sex couples who want recognition for the family they form should be able to reject the word marriage in favor of a phrase with less baggage.
The opponents of same-sex marriage often like to imply that marriage hasn't changed since the late Roman empire, but the facts just don't support that. Marriage is a social institution like any other, and it changes with society no matter who may try to prevent it. ...
... Put the definition of "family" firmly in the hands of the person whose family is being defined, as it should be.
on the blog a couple weeks ago you wrote that "what foley did was creepy, illegal, and wrong."
i agree with creepy and wrong, but why was it illegal if the age of consent in DC is 16? because he sent obscene material online? or did you not initially realize the age of consent is so low there? i'm curious which one, because i think it's so bizarre how everyone kept referring to foley's IM-buddies as "boys" and "children," when in fact they were, legally, consenting adults. like there's this real sex-panicked post by some guy ari berman at the nation where he's like "MARK FOLEY IS A DERANGED PERVERT TALKING ABOUT MASTURBATION WITH CHILDREN." i think it's disgusting because mark foley is disgusting and hideous (and their boss), but not cuz he's a "pedophile."
also, can you think of any straight celebrities who flaunt their teenage girlfriends, such as sports stars? i mean, besides R. Kelly.
ALSO, do you think the foley effect is basically over? aside from a few house races where people helped cover him up?
The initial things I read suggested that even if the guy was over the age of consent to have physical sex in DC, it would still be illegal to solicit sex online if he was under 18, according to some weird wrinkle of the law. I've since read that that may not be true. I don't know what the answer is, actually. In any case I think it's pretty clear-cut sexual harrassment if one of the pages complained, and that is definitely illegal.
I do think it's annoying that they're continually referred to as children, pretty obviously because parents get way more freaked out by their adolescent sons having sex with men than with women. I mean, did anyone really give a shit about Debra Lafave? (She is also way hotter than Foley, of course.)
It definitely affected Tom Reynolds' race, for one. He's the NRCC chair and that race (NY-26) was pretty much considered a slam dunk for him; then he got caught covering for Foley, his chief of staff resigned, and now it's within single digits. Also Dennis Hastert is now up only 10 points--unless there's a more recent poll. It probably is also hurting Heather Wilson (NM-01). I think the fact that it's coming out that Jim Kolbe (former Arizona congressman) also may have slept with pages may have brought Pederson a little closer to Kyl in the Arizona Senate race, but that probably didn't matter much.
I do think the effect has faded. Child advocate Patty Wetterling went from behind to 8 points ahead of nutjob Michele Bachman (MN-06) right after the Foley story broke, but now Bachman is back ahead. Reynolds was double digits down in the first polls after Foley; now he's back ahead.
It certainly stopped whatever momentum the Republicans hoped to get from the Torture Bill dead in its tracks. Basically their only hope now from the news is that Saddam Hussein's sentencing is scheduled for two days before the election. Apart from that it's all money, turnout, and cheating.
My own analysis of the 2004 exit poll results, presented at Stanford University on Nov. 9, 2004, found no consistent boost in turnout by pro-Bush groups — conservatives, Republicans, and churchgoing white Protestants — in states with gay-marriage initiatives.No consistent boost in turnout between 2000 and 2004.
An effect, to be an effect, should be consistent.
Nationally, Bush's greatest gain in 2004 came not among the highly churched, but among infrequent churchgoers. That election was about terrorism. [EA]
I just came back from the Hustler Ball in Berlin, I must say the liberal approach to bareback[ing] is frightening. I assume that this is because the drugs are so good to fight HIV infection that nobody gives a shit anymore.OK, it's not totally surprising that unsafe sex is common at something called the Hustler Ball (whatever that is), but then check out this reply to that post.
Yes, in Berlin bareback is the rule, not the exception, and not just at the big events, but every day, in the bars, clubs, etc. If you use a condom, people assume you are a tourist. Many accept it, however, though some insist on bareback.That's disturbing, but it's consistent with my impression of younger guys who have sex with guys even in New York.
In actively confronting the mythologies that stigmatize the single female household and the ownership of property by single women and exposing their irrationality, this [SATC] episode differs from mainstream chick flicks that tend to uphold such mythologies even while subjecting them to gentle comic treatment. For instance, in Sleepless in Seattle  Annie’s (Meg Ryan) staunch insistence that the claim that a woman over forty is more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to get married is "not true," is met with her friend Becky’s (Rosie O’Donnell) rejoinder, "But it feels true." ...Unlike the SATC episode, which as always ended with an affirmation of how the gals' friendship would last forever, 30 Rock ended with Tina Fey making fun of some guy at a bar who hits on her after he overhears her getting 'dumped' by the lesbian. I don't know if that's subjecting stigmatizing mythologies about single women to gentle comic treatment. Does it propagate a conservative social message of female accomodation to patriarchy? If so, is there any way of depicting single straight women that doesn't propagate a conservative social message? I guess 30 Rock lacks SATC's 'sisterhood is powerful' theme, but instead it makes Miranda rather than Carrie the central character. Miranda as written by Woody Allen.
... Most often vehicles "for the propagation of a conservative social message of female accommodation to a reformed patriarchy," [sentimental female friendship films popular in the 1990s] tend to fortify patriarchal constraints through an identification system in which women’s shared experience of these constraints makes them appear inevitable and even rewarding. "Sex and the City" endeavors to value female friendship without capitulating to such social norms.
Our analysis -- based on a race-by-race examination of campaign-finance data -- suggests that the GOP will hang on to both chambers, at least nominally. We expect the Republican majority in the House to fall by eight seats, to 224 of the chamber's 435. At the very worst, our analysis suggests, the party's loss could be as large as 14 seats, leaving a one-seat majority. But that is still a far cry from the 20-seat loss some are predicting. In the Senate, with 100 seats, we see the GOP winding up with 52, down three
We studied every single race -- all 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate -- and based our predictions about the outcome in almost every race on which candidate had the largest campaign war chest, a sign of superior grass-roots support. We ignore the polls. Thus, our conclusions about individual races often differ from the conventional wisdom. Pollsters, for instance, have upstate New York Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds trailing Democratic challenger Jack Davis, who owns a manufacturing plant. But Reynolds raised $3.3 million in campaign contributions versus $1.6 million for Davis, so we score him the winner.
In terms of the November elections, while conservatives like James Dobson of Focus on the Family (FoF) have railed against the decision as "a travesty," it's also clear that they can barely hide their disappointment at not getting the base-galvanizing, pro-marriage decision that they were dreading/anticipating.
Try as they might, these right-wing attempts to ratchet up the gay marriage fear factor come off as rather lame. By leaving it up to the legislature to decide between gay marriage or civil union, the court dodged a bullet. And all signs indicate that the Democrat-controlled legislature and Gov. Corzine will take the easy way out and pass a civil union bill (like Vermont's or Connecticut's). It's hard to see how even the right-wing machine could turn the incredibly slim chance that the NJ legislature would pass a gay marriage bill into a viable election issue. It's a local issue now, not national. As I pointed out earlier, only same-sex marriage outright would create the possibility for gay couples to sue in federal courts for broader marriage benefits.
i want to put out an anti obama ad that is a bunch of monkeys crawling over a very pale aryan woman's nude body while words flash on the screen like subliminal message style
TERRORISM DEATH TAXES POVERTY WAR HOMOSEXUALS
at the end this soft light glows in from off screen and the monkeys scatter away screeching and the republican competitor flies in on angel wings and wraps the woman in a blanket. and the word PEACE flashes and stays on the screen.
What are the implications nationwide? With Christian conservatives threatening to stay home, and with the Foley scandal still occupying front page real estate, is this the GOP's last chance to rally its family values base? If NJ does go the way of Massachusetts, Bush will almost certainly reiterate calls for a federal marriage amendment. But is it too little, too late? Eight states have defense of marriage amendments on the ballot this November, but polls from some of them -- Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado and South Dakota -- indicate that the issue has lost some of its punch.
In a cynical way, I'm tickled pink that gays are now seen as sand in the electoral machine -- first gay marriage in '04 and now Foleygate in '06. Homosexuals: we're the equal opportunity spoilers, the Ross Perots of the new century. We're here! We're queer! And we will ruin your elections!
I watch some Brit crap along with my regular American crap, and in the last couple of months I've now seen two shows in which some fundamentalist Christian sect gets out of control and starts committing murder and mayhem. A) I think it's damn obvious no such episode could ever be aired in the U.S., and B) to our British readers, is there a particular reason why British popular culture these days should be more paranoid about Christian nuts than usual? Or am I reading too much into two episodes of TV?
“On the House side, it makes sense to be focusing on 25 seats to win 14, not 50,” said Steve Rosenthal, a political and labor consultant with close ties to the party, who described many Democrats as “overenthused.”
“If we had unlimited resources it would be different,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “But we have to be careful.”
Mr. Emanuel said he was polling to see where the party might move next. But he said that barring some last-minute infusion of money, he was considering a relatively limited increase in the number of seats where Democrats would spend. In the past week, Democrats have expanded their field to just over 40 races from about 35, running advertisements against Republicans they consider newly vulnerable in Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, upstate New York and Washington State.
Quinn says this is a substantial improvement from the rules the NYPD tried to create in August. Lets try the smell test! Here are the rules the NYPD tried in August:
Any group of two or more cyclists or pedestrians traveling down a public street, who violate any traffic law, rule or regulation can be arrested for parading without a permit.
Any group of 20 or more cyclists must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD or would be subject to arrest
Every group of 35 of more pedestrians must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD or would be subject to arrest
So, they increased the threshold at which j-walking becomes an arrestable offense from 2 to 10. And they rounded the last two points. Is that a substantial difference?
Smells the same to me. Quinn must NOT have read the same NYPD statement everyone else did today, or she has a real reading comprehension problem.
This also [raises] the question why Quinn wanted to be leader of the legislative branch in the first place if she's not going to lead on legislating in area which clearly calls for it. The NYPD plain and simple should not be making dramatic rule changes that effect fundamental civil liberties. The representatives of the people should.
911: Alright. He didn't seem like he was under the influence of anything other than alcohol correct?
MAZZEO: Um, probably power (laughing). ... But I don't know ...
A: "Rape, murder, arson, bigamy and rape".
Q: "You said rape twice?!"
A: "I like rape."
That said, if the committee is going to the bank to borrow money for these second and third tier races, the money should go to them -- not contests in which both parties have already sunk hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars already. (I'm looking at you, Illinois 6!) In races in which the price tag for each campaign has already topped one or two million dollars, the next $50,000 or $100,000 isn't going to have the same type of impact it would in an emerging race that has thus far been less costly. Even $500,000 for more television ads in a multi-multi-million dollar race could not possibly have the same effect that that same amount of money would have on one of the less-watched races.
Yesterday the DCCC pumped a staggering $11,859,818.68 into 32 races in 17 states, new filings with the FEC show. ...
Notably, almost half of the cash — $5,042,707.45 — was spent on three House races in Pennsylvania alone, on ads targeting incumbents Jim Gerlach, Curt Weldon and Mike Fitzpatrick.
Because of diminishing returns, we know that a large investment in an expensive race will bring few votes, while a small investment in a cheaper race may bring many. Parties shy away from the latter on the grounds that hopeless candidates are hopeless causes. But the math says different. Suppose that we could increase the odds of twenty candidates from 5 to 10 percent for the same cost of helping two candidates with 45 percent chances get to 50 percent. By helping the twenty hapless candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 20 x 0.05 = 1 to 20 x 0.10 = 2. By helping the well-heeled candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 2 x .45 = 0.90 to 2 x .50 = 1. The first investment portfolio has an expected return of 1 additional victory, while the second one is just one-tenth of an additional victory.
The New York City Police Department's proposed regulations for when and what activities will require parade permits are a substantial improvement over regulations proposed earlier.This is from someone who was the executive director of a major grassroots activist group. I guess she has to be balanced and inoffensive in order to get the job done, but I'd have liked a stronger articulation of how fundamental the right to free assembly is.
New York City is a symbol of creativity and free expression for people around the world. It is difficult to balance the protection of civil liberties with the need for public order. We believe that the newly proposed rules have struck a better balance. We hope that the Police Department will carefully consider all the comments that they receive from individuals and groups during this public comment period. We hope too that the Police Department will be open to additional suggestions of ways to better balance the competing interests at stake.
When: TONIGHT, OCTOBER 19 at 11:30 p.m. EST.
Where: The Comedy Central TV channel. (Channel 50 on Cablevision. Check your local listings.)
Three weeks ago Hall taped a Know Thy Opponent segment for The Colbert Report, a popular late-night TV show hosted by Stephen Colbert which mixes politics, current events and humor.
When is a hospital not a hospital? When it becomes a post-apocalyptic Noah’s Ark inhabited by stentorian angels, deformed messiahs, and harried, horny nurses. The Children’s Hospital, published by McSweeney’s, is a dark, hilarious novel about “the strange and horrible new world” after God floods the earth with 7 miles of water and the only people remaining are the denizens of a hospital that is somehow left bobbing at sea. The author, Chris Adrian, has a pedigree that includes medical school, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Harvard Divinity School, and he writes about pediatric medicine and theodicy alike with precision and exhaustive detail. “I started writing in high school,” he said in an interview with Ploughshares, “after I realized that I had no talent for painting, and that I had better give that up before I hurt myself or someone else with my sloppy, gruesome studies of malproportioned nude women.” This epic novel is hardly sloppy, but it can be gruesome—just about every theological interlude is interrupted by either a nude woman’s petit mort or her vomit. In the first chapter, apocalypse descends just as the heroine has surreptitious sex with a fellow medical intern; the hospital’s physical unmooring exactly coincides with her own best orgasm ever. After the deluge comes the nation-building, and the novel really gets going when the hospital becomes a Platonic city-state whose citizens must devise their own new laws and social structures—with the inevitable corruption and injustices that follow any good idea.
Some traditional philosophical problems, though unfortunately not very many, can eventually receive a scientific solution. This actually happened with the problem of what constitutes life. We cannot now today recover the passions with which mechanists and vitalists debated whether a "mechanical" account of life could be given. The point is not so much that the mechanists won and the vitalists lost, but that we got a much richer conception of the mechanisms. I think we are in a similar situation today with the problem of consciousness. It will, I predict, eventually receive a scientific solution. But like other scientific solutions in biology, it will have to give us a causal account. It will have to explain how brain processes cause conscious experiences, and this may well require a much richer conception of brain functioning than we now have.
The discussion at Steve Gilliard's about this article can be roughly summarized as follows: No matter what you listen to, the version of it they play on the radio sucks. The wave of radio consolidation that concentrated most radio stations in the country into the hands of a few owners hasn't just made them politically reprehensible, it's made them downright unlistenable. For now there's Pandora and independent stations like WFMU.
But this brings up a broader point. One thing not mentioned on the Ezra Klein "What Makes a Liberal" list I linked earlier is a belief in trustbusting: the government must make sure no corporation gets too powerful or else democracy suffers. Read, for example, Barry Lynn's argument that Wal-mart must be broken up not because it mistreats its workers, breaks union drives, and has shitty benefits, but simply because it is too big and powerful for the good of the nation as a whole. This is exactly the sort of activist government conservatives hate the most, but it is more important than ever that liberals reconnect with this 100-year-old legacy of the original Progressives.
We need to think about how not just to reform the Democratic Party's electoral machinery and oust its current crop of incompetent managers, but also how to reform it ideologically so that it is willing not just to check the worst excesses of the Republicans but actually to roll them back.
U.S. Citizen Jose Padilla has filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him (charges which are extremely vague and not related to the reason he was supposedly locked up in the first place), claiming that he was tortured for almost the entire three and a half years he was detained without charges on U.S. soil.
Seriously, read the brief (excerpted at the first link above, .pdf here). It will blow your mind how implausible it isn't.
Via Glenn Greenwald, who points out that:
...all of the treatment he describes are part of the "interrogation and detention techniques" which the President now has the legal authority to invoke pursuant to the so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006 -- enacted by our Congress just ten days ago. Thus, everything Padilla describes is now perfectly legal in the United States -- even when applied against individuals charged with no crimes of any kind.
There's a network of gay staffers who we have to investigate to see if they knew about this and covered it up. ... It's a symptom of a larger problem not only within the party but within the culture.
I propose that when he appears to be even a little smart, he's just coughing up Washington-cocktail-party CW. When he thinks about things on his own, it comes out really stupid. Remember, he's responsible for the whole Red America/Blue America idea, which is substantively false even if it appears superficially compelling.
Either that or he's deliberately disingenuous all the time. I don't think that's a distinction that matters. Both are performatively stupid.
Am I the only one utterly bored with Foleygate? Who finds the endless repetition of the phrase "every parent's greatest fear" just plain gross? Or who finds it ridiculous when soft-handed Paul Begala claims "If somebody sends an email like that to my kid, they're going to deal with the law firm of Smith & Wesson. It ain't gonna go to no page court." (No, I'm not embedding it.)
Meanwhile, the House half-assedly gave the President the green light to bomb Iran, and the NLRB stripped the right to form a union from 8 million workers by calling them "supervisors."
Via Arthur Silber, Dave Lindorff:
It's a sad commentary on the state of American democracy, on the instincts of the American citizenry, and on the standards and judgment of the American newsmedia that the unsavory advances of a pathetic Florida congressman can have the nation in high dudgeon, while the ramming through of a patently illegal piece of legislation undermining a crucial 13th century civil liberty (habeas corpus), and the Fourth and Eighth Amendments of the constitution, and the secret planning for an illegal and catastrophic attack on Iran, both merit almost no complaint or mention.
This week has seen a sad display of partisanship over principle by the major liberal blogs over the Torture At Will/Habeas-Corpus-B-Gon Act of 2006 (or as tristero calls it, the USA Mengele Act). To review, as I wrote in a comment elsewhere:
[T]he reason so many are pissed off at Democrats ... [is] that they stupidly, idiotically, stood back and let “moderate” Republicans fight for them, bragged about not getting involved, and taunted Republicans for not being able to come to resolution. Then, when “moderate” Republicans reached “compromise,” they stood around trying to pry their jaws from the floor and their thumbs from their asses before they figured out what to do next. As it turned out on the last day of debate, when a lot of people made pretty, meaningless speeches, most of the Democratic caucus was opposed to this bill. So why the fuck didn’t they say so three weeks ago when it was introduced? Why didn’t they explain from Day One why they opposed it in the terms they used yesterday? If they’d lost under those circumstances it still would have hurt, but to lose after they spent two and a half weeks announcing that they weren’t even going to try, that’s infuriating.
Get it? This isn’t about counting the votes that were or weren’t there. The votes themselves are meaningless (especially if the boast is going to be that most of the Democratic caucus voted the right way). It’s about the fact that Democrats proudly did nothing for the entire time leading up to the vote. I don’t care that they didn’t mount a doomed filibuster: they didn’t mount a goddamned campaign.
So what was the reaction from the liberal blogs? First outrage, as I described earlier. And then, after the bill passed with only token opposition, suddenly there emerged a consensus that really, since the right people to blame for introducing the bill in the first place are the Republicans, this can all be solved if we just work harder than ever to elect Democrats!
Yay! Elect Democrats! Give! Volunteer!
Apart from the fact that "Yeah, this was a tough loss, better fight harder next time" is a totally inadequate response to your government legalizing torture, fuck you and your ActBlue page.
I was going to surf around and find some of the more annoying of these reactions, but Neil the Ethical Werewolf has saved me the trouble. Of course he saved me the trouble by linking to them all approvingly, but thanks to him anyway.
Let's start with The Editors (go to their place if you want all the links):It’s true, “the Democrats” didn’t send this awful, anti-Democratic bill to defeat. But, then, they didn’t have the votes for it. Nor, indeed, did they fillibuster the bill. But, as Sen. Reid confessed, and as the final vote proved out, they didn’t have the votes for that, either. But they should have made a futile gesture! you complain. Well, many Democrats did make futile gestures, futile speeches even, even crappy Hillary Clinton. But they should have made the futile gesture I wanted them to make! Well, perhaps they should have, but I fear we this discussion may now drifting from political commentary into interpretive dance criticism. The bottom line is the votes weren’t there. The day was lost.
Scott is right as usual:this is a Republican bill, and it would not have passed if Democrats controlled Congress.
The most basic error that people who want to put most of the blame on the Democrats make is the assumption that you can infer voting behavior when you control the agenda from voting behavior that occurs after the agenda has been set by someone else. But this is foolish. The fact that John Kerry voted for the Iraq War does not mean that he would have sought to invade Iraq if he had been President
Chris Bowers lists a bunch of issues on which most Senate Democrats voted right. It's a long list with plenty of important stuff. He continues:I am not sure if there has been a single issue in the Senate over the past four years where the majority of Senate Democrats did not side with the progressive position and oppose the Republican majority. Would it have been better if all Senate Democrats had stood united on all of these issues and stopped any one them from passing? Obviously. But to characterize an entire party because of the actions taken by a minority in that party is simply unfair.
Amanda forcefully explains why not voting for Democrats is really dumb:if you start howling at them for not controlling what they have no power to control, you’re making a joke of yourself. Telling people to pull our support from them when they’re all we’ve got is, like torture, self-defeating. If you’re so gung-ho about people not being complicit with the Republicans, the first step is to quit being complicit with Republican attempts to hold onto power by telling people to abstain from voting the Republicans out.
This agenda for reform has many points in common with the left of the Democratic Party. Many in the center-left would like to see a strong Democratic Party that was more willing to stand up to Republicans and better able to deter its members from defecting on core issues such as Social Security and labor rights. However, there are some important differences. If many leftists are interested in structural reforms of American politics, the shared goal of the netroots is more straightforward, less policy-oriented, and less ambitious—a strong party that can win elections.
However, the netroots’ challenge to bipartisanship and the currently prevailing political wisdom doesn’t go nearly far enough. They have a very good idea of what is wrong with the Democratic Party, but they’re only starting to analyze the underlying political forces that have created these problems. As long as their ambitions are turned to reforming the electoral apparatus of the party and preventing individual politicians from defecting and supporting the Republicans on core issues, their impact will be real but limited. In order to really change the role of the Democratic Party in American politics, they need to focus not only on winning elections, but on reshaping the ideological battleground that they play out on.
Netroots activists often compare themselves to the Goldwater supporters who took over the Republican Party in the 1960s and 1970s. But a close reading of Rick Perlstein’s book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (which enjoys near-canonical status among netroots bloggers), suggests that the differences between Goldwaterites and the netroots are as important as the similarities. Goldwater’s followers succeeded not only because of their organizational skills but because of their commitment to a set of long-term ideological goals. Over two decades, they relentlessly sought to undermine the ideological foundations of the existing American political consensus, rebuilding it over time so that it came to favor conservative and Republican political positions rather than liberal or Democratic ones. The result is a skewed political system in which Republicans enjoy a persistent political advantage. The issue space that American politics plays out on has been reconstructed so that its center of gravity quietly but insistently pulls politicians to the right. So it isn’t any accident that bipartisanship in the modern era mostly consists of hewing to the Republican agenda.
As Perlstein argued in these pages two years ago, it isn’t impossible to remould this conventional wisdom, although it is difficult and risky. And the netroots can surely play an important role. Their comparative advantage is exactly in framing political issues and controversies so that they resonate widely. Prominent netroots bloggers recognize in principle the importance of the battle over ideas. Kos and Armstrong devote a substantial portion of Crashing the Gate, to discussing the need for a Democratic apparatus of think tanks and foundations that parallels the conservative intellectual machine. Kos writes regularly about how the Democrats need “big ideas” if they are to win. However, because the netroots conceive of themselves as a non-ideological movement, they aren’t delivering on their potential to help provide and refine these big ideas themselves and thus reshape the ideological underpinnings of the political consensus. If the netroots truly want to tilt the playing ground of American politics back again so that it favors the Democrats, they will need to embrace a more vigorous and coherent ideological program.
But now we are told that, if and when Democrats take back Congress, they will erase this abominable blot from our nation's record. On what basis are people so certain of that? You hope they would do so, as do I, but you do not know that. On this point, I would be prepared to feel some confidence that Democratic majorities would do the right thing -- if only they were speaking out in opposition to the coming attack on Iran now. In the same way that the Democrats could have educated Americans about the profound dangers in this latest bill well before the battle was finally joined, they should have been educating Americans about the grave immorality and destructive insanity of an attack on Iran for months now, as I suggested at the conclusion of my essay, "Morality, Humanity and Civilization" (which is, I confess, one of my personal favorites; because of the issues it discusses, I implore you to read it). But they have not been speaking out in this manner at all. They merely echo the administration line that a nuclear Iran is "unthinkable" and cannot be "allowed," because we say so. In this manner, they only increase the likelihood of such an attack, rather than decrease it. After the catastrophe of Iraq, after the catastrophe of the Military Commissions Act, the Democrats still do not know how to fight these battles. It is not even clear they wish to. So on what basis are you so confident they will undo the monstrousness of this bill?
Such confidence that the Democrats will do the right thing also rests on what I consider to be a deeply dangerous naivete about the political dynamics in play. In the runup to the 2008 election, we will still be in Iraq. The "war on terror" will be a continuing enterprise. Given the Democrats' overpowering fear of being portrayed as "soft" on terrorism, would they dare undo this legislation in such a climate? I strongly doubt it; I am 99% certain they would not. And if the undoubtedly disastrous after-effects of an attack on Iran are playing out (see this post and the other entries linked there, including this one, for much more on this), the ongoing national hysteria would probably lead to further and still worse legislation and police state tactics, to which the Democrats will probably also accede.