What’s the Matter With America’s Progressive Intellectual Backbone?

by matttbastard

Joining in on the dead horse flogging previously initiated by my esteemed co-bloggers Kyle, tas and Dustin, Chet Scoville examines how the reaction in some quarters to, in the words of Joe Gandelman, Senator Obama’s “politically flat-footed” comments re: small town voters exposes the failure of the American liberal intelligentsia to adequately lay down intellectual foundations that progressive politicians can later safely build upon without fear of blowback like what Obama is currently facing:

If the American left were at all functional, and if the American media worked the way a free media is supposed to, [Thomas] Frank’s analysis [of why some people vote against their interests, outlined in his book What’s The Matter With Kansas] would be as well known in the public arena as Grover Norquist’s anti-government paranoia on the other side. And it would have been picked up in liberal journals, discussed, debated, fleshed out, corrected. The Democratic Party would have had analysts examine it, do some polling, some focus-grouping, some framing and marketing. And the analysis, newly corrected, would have found its way in palatable form into the campaigns, in a way that placed the blame squarely where it belongs: on the Republican politicians and their corporate bosses who have crafted the paranoia for their own purposes. This, as Bill Bradley noted three years ago, is essentially what the GOP has been doing for thirty years, to great electoral success.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the candidate has picked up the analysis without any of that other, necessary work being done. Furthermore, he made the capital mistake of deploying this argument during a primary campaign and not the general, thus inadvertently* implying that his fellow Democrats (in this case, Clinton supporters) were paranoid and unthinking.

Scoville points to this post by Bob Somerby, which, though contextually focused on Obama’s race speech, is also (IMO) right on the money in this instance:

It’s dangerous when we put our White House candidate out in front on such issues, making him lead a risky parade (Just as it would have been dangerous to have Candidate Gore deliver those “courageous” speeches about global warming.) But let’s state the obvious: Our “liberal intellectual leaders” don’t lead in any way.


For better or worse, “courageous” doesn’t typically win elections. “Courageous” is good for liberal thinkers, of whom we have very few.

Fair or unfair, the lack of impact progressive thinkers have had on American political discourse over the past several decades has left Democratic candidates all-too-vulnerable to “gaffes” such as this. Once again, I point to Sara Robinson’s three part series on how the USian liberal left can work to overcome the idea deficit. Until that happens, I’ll grit my teeth in dubious anticipation of future teapot tempests, all-but-guaranteed to be stirred up by a lazy, vacuous press corps wholly contaminated by 30 years of movement conservative propaganda.

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Quote of the Day: Undeniable Logic

by matttbastard

You know, I actually get the perplexity about why those of us defending [Senator Clinton’s] right to keep campaigning don’t concede that it’s “obvious” she can’t win and should drop out, and about why we don’t see the “undeniable logic” that, even though Obama might not be able to win outright, either, he’s closer than she is. I really do get the bewilderment. I do.

And I don’t know if I can properly explain why that “obvious” conclusion and “undeniable logic” don’t appeal to or persuade us, but here’s the thing: Lots of us are women who have been told “You can’t” for much of our lives, or had seemingly unnavigable barriers put in our way by people who didn’t want us to succeed. Lots of us are women who, had we played by The Rules, wouldn’t have gotten where we are—because The Rules are designed so that we fail. The odds have been against us our whole lives; everything we’ve ever done has been in defiance of the distinct likelihood—and expectation—that we would settle for less than we wanted.

Our routes have been nontraditional, our strategies neither obvious nor logical by traditional standards. By design, and by necessity.

What if we’d all taken our boobs and gone home, when someone who saw the perfect logic of it told us to…?

Melissa McEwan, Take Your Boobs and Go Home Watch

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Say It Ain’t So

by matttbastard

Why, Mike, Why?

Seriously, over the past several weeks I could feel the Gravelmentum building up within the ranks of the Democratic grass roots. If only he’d waited till the convention. The superdelegates may have come to their senses and chosen the *ahem* most experienced candidate, the only one who had a chance of beating McCain at shuffleboard, the only white male Democrat left in the race!

Now we’ll never know what might have been.


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Typical Vultures

by matttbastard


Elle wins the internets:

For all the people holding on to Obama’s “typical white person” comment as if it prize carrion and you are starved vultures… Stop fronting. You are not as much concerned with what that comment meant as you are:
1) glad to have an acceptable excuse for why you can’t possibly vote for him (knowing damned well you weren’t in the first place)
2) peeved (as I read over and over) that neither HRC nor McCain “could make that comment about a person of color.”
In fact, you’re so up in arms over point number two that you fail to realize that saying that reveals what kind of comment you’d like to make; that you do, indeed, have some notions about a “typical person of color.” I mean Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton wouldn’t be as upset as you predict if you said something positive about the “typical black person.”
And though it seems Obama’s comment has been taken out of context, even if he had been saying the typical white person has “racist issues”… Stop fronting. You haven’t been spouting that “I’m colorblind” line so long that even you actually believe it now, have you? You don’t believe that the vast majority of white Americans can have been born in a country founded, in part, on white supremacist ideology (ideology that has been reinforced, perpetuated, upheld, SUSTAINED!) and emerged into adulthood having neither benefited from nor internalized any of that?

h/t Melissa

Related: More on The Rules from David Neiwert (Rev. Sun Myung Who?)

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The Speech

by matttbastard

Seems like everyone and their dog has something to say about The Speech, including nu-school academic racist Charles Murray, who *gasp* loved it (buh?!):

Has any other major American politician ever made a speech on race that comes even close to this one? As far as I’m concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we’re used to from our pols…. But you know me. Starry-eyed Obama groupie.

The end is nigh.

John Derbyshire, responding to a portion of Obama’s speech that references school segregation, provides a more traditional National Review perspective on race (h/t Mini-Marty @ The Plank):

It’s true that there is widespread school segregation today. In my state, 60 percent of black students attend schools that are at least 90-percent black. From what I can see, the main reason for this is the great reluctance of nonblack parents to send their kids to schools with too many black students (emphasis added). Do you think that they — actually we, as my wife and I share this reluctance — are wrong to think like this?

Perhaps sensing that he may have crossed the fine line between dog whistle and rape whistle (oopsie), Derb has since quietly updated his post:

From what I can see, the main reason for this is the great reluctance of nonblack parents to send their kids to schools with too many black students, which they assume are beset by all the problems associated with poorly run public schools.

O…k…thanks for clearing that up. Now step away from the shovel, asshole–slowly. Oh, and put down the well-thumbed copy of Lolita too while you’re at it.

Best comment goes to DDay @ Hullabaloo (h/t Tom Watson):

I have a problem with these expected blog posts on expected speeches that the dynamics of 21st-century campaigns demand. This election has turned into some kind of bizarre series of rituals, like an season of Greek theater where everybody knows the plot and the audience is left to judge the work on the presentation. The parade of comment, counter-comment, conference call about comment, distancing from comment, and major speech incorporating remarks about comment is the real distraction in this campaign, diverting from a looming economic recession (a recession at BEST) and a tragic stalemate in Iraq. Rarely does anything good for the country come out of this exchange.

Furthermore, I’m sick and tired of this “action figure” conservatism where a bunch of stay-at-home bloggers decide for others what they should do in particular situations. “If I were Obama, I would have stood up during the sermon and fired a poison dart at Rev. Wright and talked about the need to cut the capital gains tax!” The imagined fantasies of these clowns resemble a Chuck Norris movie, when the realities involve far more Cheetos and nasal spray.

Can I get an amen?

Elsewhere: More analysis from Pam Spaulding, Melissa, Kyle, dnA (who was pleasantly surprised by the content of The Speech), publius, Steve M., Taylor Owen, Steven Taylor, Jill Hussein C. and the usual shit-load of citizen pundits @ Memeorandum.

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The Third Term

by matttbastard

(h/t Petulant for the vid)

4 more years:

BUSH: And the good news about our candidate there will be a new president, a man of character and courage, but he’s not going to change when it comes to taking on the enemy. He understands this is a dangerous world.

‘Stay the course’ will never get old–not even after 100 years.

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Happy Democracy Fatigue Day

by matttbastard

Digby asks a (simple) question [link corrected–mb] that a number of us Canucks watching from the sidelines have also posited numerous times during the (over)extended run up to November:

Is there any reason why the parties choose a nominee through this delegate system at all? Why don’t they just count up the votes and give it to the one who won the most?

Pshh, what would she have the Best Political Team On Television talk about instead of the all-important horse raceissues?!

Yawn city, dude.

Via Fester @ The Newshoggers, BJ nails it:

Whatever else, I don’t want to see the Democrats wasting their resources beating each other down for the next several months, because I really, really don’t want to listen to failed Beach Boy President McCain tell us all how great his “bomb, bomb Iran” strategy really is.

Yeah, it’s a very catchy tune:

Just remember: the MSM’s favourite saintly maverick can sing any damn song he wants (even dog-whistlin’ Dixie in Arabic via third party) and the press will reflexively declare it to be a hit, whether or not they bothered listening to the entire album–kinda like that Maxim critic who preemptively slammed the Black Crowes’ new record, but in reverse.

Oh, and a sincere thank you to the voters of Alberta (all 41% percent of you!) for showing the powers-that-be what a (supposedly) dissatisfied Canadian electorate will do when pushed against the wall by (apparently) shoddy leadership: stand up and reward the incumbent party with 88% of the legislature on 53% of the popular vote (I truly heart first past the post).

But I’m sure the other 59% had much better things to do yesterday instead of casting a ballot:

Methinks it’s time to turn off the intertubes for a bit before I get the urge to convert to anarchism.

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8 Years.

by matttbastard

Now that’s precisely the sort of experienced leader you want answering the White House phone at 3am. It should be clear by now that Senator Kerry Clinton is the only Democratic candidate in 2004 2008 who can match George W. Bush’s John McCain’s national security credentials.


h/t Matthew Yglesias

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