Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Exit


I have not been posting much of late because I could not settle the question of supporting or not supporting Obama in my mind. I know that primarying him would not be successful and might have no effect at all. I know that most people support Obama. Politically, there is no question what must be done. But morally, it is wrong. I wrote this elsewhere in response to someone supporting Obama, but I want to repeat it here:


You are saying that we are not allowed to try to move Obama to the left. Or you are saying that we should not use the only viable means open to us--give time and money to someone other than our tribe's leader.

You are saying that our civilization is in danger and if we don't support our authority he will not be able to protect us from danger. You are saying that we must give up our principles, let the poor suffer, let the middle class become poor, let our old age pensions and medial care in old age gradually become weakened into non-existence---or the terrorists/Sarah Palin/Mike Huckabee will win.

You are saying that we must let our Leader build up our hopes for moral reform and then take them away, while scolding us for having those hopes at all. You are saying we must not speak up, must not criticize, must not use what little power we might have.

It is morally wrong to support a president who keeps open GITMO, escalates wars and begins new ones, gives taxpayers' monies to bail out banks, lowers workers' pay, and cuts taxes for the rich when the poor are desperate. You are arguing that being able to say our leader is the leader of our entire tribe is more important than doing the right thing.

You are saying that the middle class won't help the poor, the ones actually suffering right now, until the Leader's policies destroy them as well. And maybe not even then, for when it comes to supporting our Leader we would rather die than admit we were wrong and he has failed us.


We each must make our own choices but we must all acknowledge both the futility of political revolt against the elite under the present circumstances and the immorality of supporting the elite. The fact that we are trapped into immobility should give us a hint that there is something terribly wrong with the present political system, and tell us that it does not want our input, just our money and votes.

28 comments:

Mr. Wonderful said...

Exactly. It's tempting to assume that one's political advocacy takes place in a zero-sum game between the real and the ideal, and that anyone who insists on all of the latter is immature or not "serious."

But that's not what we're saying--or, at least, what I'm feeling. I know compromise is inevitable. The problem with Obama lies not in the results (well, not ONLY in some of the results), but in the way they're arrived at.

We see him cosseting, respecting, and pre-capitulating to Republicans who openly despise him. Which means they openly despise us.

We see him granting validity to arguments we know, and we have reason to think that he knows, are sheer lies.

We see him treating the people who put him in office as bothersome malcontents, while treating his mortal enemies as well-intentioned statesmen who just happen to see things a different way.

And even if all I'm saying here is about our feelings, it's our feelings that put him in office, that he solicited and made promises to, and that he now betrays.

The question still is, why? Why cave so readily to your enemies and criticize your friends? Because he "wants to get things done"? Fine. Get them done in a context of due respect to your allies and deserved excoriation of your enemies.

Because he's "really a centrist Republican"? Then fuck him.

Because he "has a vision of a post-partisan U.S."? That's delusional.

Meanwhile, this is where we're stuck--given a shit sandwich by someone who should say, "It's all I could get," but instead who is saying, "Quit whining. It's a sandwich, isn't it?"

Ed Crotty said...

Why? Maybe he is just weak - maybe this is a lot harder than it looks. Maybe he's just a centrist -
Obama ( and Hillary and Bill Clinton, for that matter ) were always "centrists". The only look liberal in comparison to the GOP.

"Why" isn't really important.
First - don't give up - keep pushing him left. Keep complaining.
BUT - Know that NOT voting, NOT working to move the country left just lets the republicans win. And a shit sandwich is better that a dynamite sandwich that makes your head explode.

You don't have to be happy about it but know that without something holding back the thugs things could get a lot worse.

Susan of Texas said...

Obama broke the fundamental authoritarian contract with his followers: The followers give him power and the leader gives the followers a sense of belonging and purpose. He wont do that because he doesn't want them. Us.

And you know what, we refuse to honor that contract as well--we don't give him unquestioning obedience.

It's the classic Authoritarian group dynamics. Those who refuse to follow the rules get kicked out of the group.

An anti-authoritarian person's gotta do what an anti-authoritarian person's gotta do. Otherwise you have to be something you're not.

In other words, no matter where you go, there you are.

Susan of Texas said...

Ed, what we need to do is sit down and have a full, realistic examination of the costs and benefits. If you're right we need to figure that out. There's too many questions at this point.

Anonymous said...

or you could read Megan today and be head explodey

Susan of Texas said...

So she'saying that the people who want Obama to do what he said he would do are crazy and don't have the power to get what they want. There's a lot of people on the left who would agree with her.

Mr. Wonderful said...

And you know what, we refuse to honor that contract as well--we don't give him unquestioning obedience.

So, wait. If he's not doing it, and we're not doing it, how does the "authoritarian" description apply? I can see it at work on the political right, but mightn't some other description apply to the left? Or is all politics fundamentally and by definition authoritarian?

Susan of Texas said...

No, it's still authoritarian. We just have more anti-authoritarians on our side than the right does.

Our side has plenty of people, however, who don't question authority or are easily persuaded to go along with the present power structure, which is authoritarian. They think in terms of supporting the leader instead of expecting the leader to support them. They are motivated by fear of the Other and fear of being cast out of the group. They curb what they want to say and change their mind without understanding why--not because their understanding has changed, but because they believe what they are told by an authority even when it contradicts what they know to be true. They avoid facts that don't flatter their group/leader.

fish said...

BUT - Know that NOT voting, NOT working to move the country left just lets the republicans win. And a shit sandwich is better that a dynamite sandwich that makes your head explode.

Having been an overt Nader supporter in 2000, I get hit with this argument a lot. But frankly, I find it less and less convincing. How is what we have now significantly worse than with GWB? Still have 2 wars, Gitmo still open, groping is the new norm for travel, internet censorship, tax cuts for the wealthy, huge transfers of wealth to the banks, SS under attack. The Democrats have been more effective Republicans in the last 2 decades than the Republicans have. Just because Obama uses KY, doesn't mean we aren't getting f***ed.

Anonymous said...

I think the only answer would be a progressive equivalent of the Tea Party...a movement strong enough and loud enough to dictate terms to the Republican Party...

...but of course the Tea Party is an Astroturf movement,backed by big corporate money. That's the problem....the kind of money,media, and organization the left would need is all on the other side.

The worst part, therefore, is that, as has happened before, the progressives will be in the sad position of saying "I told you so," when the things they were warning about inevitably happen.

fish said...

Bernie Sanders is doing the most amazing filibuster right now against Obama's tax deal.

pointer said...

As much as lefty blog pundits see themselves as rebelling against the cult of the presidency, everything I've seen in the past week shows that they're as committed to upholding this cult as anyone else.

You think Obama could have passed as unemployment insurance extension, more earned income credits, and all the ponies you want while snuffing out tax cuts for the wealthy -- by fiat?

He had a bad hand over the tax cut issue -- but a lot of that was because of ConservaDems and intransigent Republicans. This guy is making deals that even he admits are ugly. But that's what compromise is like sometimes: you give up something you don't really want to in order to get something else that millions of middle class citizens need. That's the real world, not the fantasy world that some libs would like to wake up to.

pointer said...

Put the blame where it's deserved the most:
http://twitter.com/#!/mattyglesias/status/12983057975873537

Susan of Texas said...

Do I think Obama could have passed unemployment insurance extensions during a massive recession when both right and left are out of work in record numbers? Of course I do. Also, those are extensions. People whose benefits ran out don't get an extension.

"Basically, anyone is eligible who has not yet finished all the tiers of unemployment insurance. It will help people who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, which is the period when state benefits end. However, the length of time of the federally funded unemployment benefit varies by state depending on how severe the unemployment is in each state.

For example, in the Dakotas and Nebraska, where unemployment is low, unemployment insurance is good for only 60 weeks. In places like Michigan, California, and Nevada, where there are more jobless, the benefit is up to 99 weeks.

Who is not eligible?
This bill will not add any additional weeks of benefits for people who have already exhausted their unemployment, a group of people sometimes called the “99ers” because they have already collected 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.

Is it retroactive?
Yes, it will be retroactive to June 2, when the last extension expired. This means some 2.5 million people will get lump-sum checks. However, the checks will not be as large as they had been because the Senate stripped out the $25 per person that had been added as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

You haven't refuted my point. It's immoral to give tax cuts to the rich at this time. Do you think Lyndon Johnson had it easy passing civil rights acts? Did Roosevelt have it easy passing the new deal? They fought for what was right and won. Obama didn't even try. And here you are making excuses for someone who was elected to lead and twist arms and force the right to do what we wanted but evidently is too weak to even try.

And we're not even getting into the obvious point--people do what they want to do. Obama didn't want to fight. Certainly not for us, the loser whiner progressive purists.

Susan of Texas said...

Okay, now you're just making me laugh.

pointer said...

LBJ and Roosevelt didn't have Fox News blaring misinformation at the electorate 24/7. They also had a lot more votes in the Senate as I recall.

Susan of Texas said...

I'm not going to look it up, at least not tonight. But I remember a photo of Johnson looming over a Senator that he forced to vote his way.

Pointer, go on making excuses if it makes you happy. I'll do what I think is right.

dlgood said...

Beyond which, Obama's capitulation to the Republicans basically makes the case to vote for Republicans.

Because regardless of what he "scores" in the deals he's made, he repeatedly cedes the Republicans the moral ground for their arguments. And each next deal shifts more to the right, and eventually Obama is left in a position where he's signing off on a lot of things he expressly campaigned against.

At which point - if he doesn't really believe in these things he says he's running for - why vote for him? Why would any actual centrist or independent be swayed by him?

Anonymous said...

I just don't see any of this as personal or even about authoritarianism. It *is* a zero sum game: a binary battle between two groups for control of the levers of power. With power you can do lots of things--lots of harm, a little bit of good. When we elect a temporary leader like a president he has certain tools at his disposal--congress, the law, the economy. But he doesn't fully control those three things just as he doesn't fully control the historical effects of what has gone before. The actions of previous presidents--two wars, for example--have effects on the economy, society and the law that may be irreversible or at any rate unwindable without further damage. Sometimes the new President has to choose between various evils and he may choose wrong or he may value some things differently from the way we value them, or he may see things that we don't see. I, for instance, would sadly see Unemployment Benefits unextended and see millions of people out in the street because I see that as the natural result of Republican intransigence and I want to see them pay for it over the next two years politically. Obama, apparently, doesn't see that as a real option. He feels responsible for making sure that those families aren't out in the street even though its a costly move politically and economically.

We're like people who chose a guy to be our front man at a poker game--we had to choose one guy and we had to give him the pot to bet with. We don't have to choose him again if we don't like his strategies, his bluffs, and his winnings but it really doesn't do much good to stand on the sidelines yelling abuse at him. We can try to get better players right up to his elbow to whisper advice--but even that has to be done in a pretty rule bound way by electing more and better people to congress and trying to pressure him through the press by enlisting important public intellectuals (if we only had any) to argue with him openly (Krugman, say.)

But we can't jerk him out of the seat and we can't cripple his ability to read his cards and deal them as he sees fit without essentially throwing the whole game to the opposition (Republicans.)

I'm not happy with the Tax deal but there's a lot of blame to go around. Obama is not a good negotiator and he sees things differently from the way I would but that goes without saying because I didn't have the nerve to run and win the presidency. We're different people. That doesn't make Obama the most evil thing ever. Reasonable people can differ about how to untangle the shit mess that Bush left. There isn't any good way in which no one gets hurt. There can be slightly better ways but they each come with a pricetag.

aimai

Anonymous said...

I just don't see any of this as personal or even about authoritarianism. It *is* a zero sum game: a binary battle between two groups for control of the levers of power. With power you can do lots of things--lots of harm, a little bit of good. When we elect a temporary leader like a president he has certain tools at his disposal--congress, the law, the economy. But he doesn't fully control those three things just as he doesn't fully control the historical effects of what has gone before. The actions of previous presidents--two wars, for example--have effects on the economy, society and the law that may be irreversible or at any rate unwindable without further damage. Sometimes the new President has to choose between various evils and he may choose wrong or he may value some things differently from the way we value them, or he may see things that we don't see. I, for instance, would sadly see Unemployment Benefits unextended and see millions of people out in the street because I see that as the natural result of Republican intransigence and I want to see them pay for it over the next two years politically. Obama, apparently, doesn't see that as a real option. He feels responsible for making sure that those families aren't out in the street even though its a costly move politically and economically.

We're like people who chose a guy to be our front man at a poker game--we had to choose one guy and we had to give him the pot to bet with. We don't have to choose him again if we don't like his strategies, his bluffs, and his winnings but it really doesn't do much good to stand on the sidelines yelling abuse at him. We can try to get better players right up to his elbow to whisper advice--but even that has to be done in a pretty rule bound way by electing more and better people to congress and trying to pressure him through the press by enlisting important public intellectuals (if we only had any) to argue with him openly (Krugman, say.)

Anonymous said...

I just don't see any of this as personal or even about authoritarianism. It *is* a zero sum game: a binary battle between two groups for control of the levers of power. With power you can do lots of things--lots of harm, a little bit of good. When we elect a temporary leader like a president he has certain tools at his disposal--congress, the law, the economy. But he doesn't fully control those three things just as he doesn't fully control the historical effects of what has gone before. The actions of previous presidents--two wars, for example--have effects on the economy, society and the law that may be irreversible or at any rate unwindable without further damage. Sometimes the new President has to choose between various evils and he may choose wrong or he may value some things differently from the way we value them, or he may see things that we don't see. I, for instance, would sadly see Unemployment Benefits unextended and see millions of people out in the street because I see that as the natural result of Republican intransigence and I want to see them pay for it over the next two years politically. Obama, apparently, doesn't see that as a real option. He feels responsible for making sure that those families aren't out in the street even though its a costly move politically and economically.

We're like people who chose a guy to be our front man at a poker game--we had to choose one guy and we had to give him the pot to bet with. We don't have to choose him again if we don't like his strategies, his bluffs, and his winnings but it really doesn't do much good to stand on the sidelines yelling abuse at him. We can try to get better players right up to his elbow to whisper advice--but even that has to be done in a pretty rule bound way by electing more and better people to congress and trying to pressure him through the press by enlisting important public intellectuals (if we only had any) to argue with him openly (Krugman, say.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry Susan! Your system always tells me my comments are too long (I wonder why? Could it be they are too long?) and then I try to break them in two and the whole thing goes squirrely on me. Society's to blame.

--aimai

Downpuppy said...

Ah, well - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34GAV_ZPMlk

Anyhow, have you seen Smallville this season? The entire year is devoted to fighting hatred that started with radio crazies & security obsession & has just about hit full Nazi.

Susan of Texas said...

Downpuppy, no, except for a couple Brainiac episodes I haven't watched it in years. That sounds interesting--I'll have to check it out.

KWillow said...

But our president has been dealt wonderful hand after wonderful hand... full house, straights, Royal Flush, 4-of-a-Kind.

And he folds.

Susan of Texas said...

Aimai, I'm still working on a reply to your post.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Late in the thread, but FWIW:

No one is saying Obama could or should have passed UI extension by fiat. My point was that, whether compromise is inevitable or not, you use the occasion to support your side and criticize (let no one say "demonize") your opponent.

Obama should have said, with as much fanfare as possible, "Well, it's obvious the Republicans don't give a tinker's dam about the deficit, since extending the Bush tax cuts to the rich--who have only gotten richer over the past ten years, while everyone else has remained stagnant or lost ground--will increase the deficit by X percent. It's obvious that they only really care about making the rich richer. Period."

He didn't do that. He gave tacit respect to their "position." And in so doing told the rest of us to either grow up or go fuck ourselves. Fiat schmiat. It's a question of public leadership vs. backroom politicking and public dissing.

Every time he cops this Mister Maturity pose I want to smack him with a dead fish. If anyone deserves to be sneered at, it's the Republicans. Not the left.

Susan of Texas said...

Aimai, I responded on the front page.