Are Liberals Nihilistically Tolerant?

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219 Responses

  1. Avatar Elia Isquire says:

    Hey y’all,

    I just wanted to say first-off what a thrill it is to have a guest post up over here at the League and how much I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone here better. I’ve been a reader for quite some time but only recently have dipped my toes into the comments.

    I’ve got a bunch of errands to run this morning-afternoon, so unfortunately I won’t be able to get into it in the comments until this evening, but I’ll be sure to check back ASAP — I’d imagine given the ideological diversity here (one of the best things about the League, imo) there might be some who quibble with my description of Democrats as milquetoast tweakers.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Thanks for submitting the guest post, Elia!

      I completely agree that the Republican party has become more a party of reactionaries than one of conservatives. Beyond that I’m pretty much on the same page as Kohn regarding liberals having lost control of the conversation, though I think that Obama did steer things back into his court a bit with the budget speech.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        That’s a very interesting point Erik, but I think you are overestimating the effect of the Obama speech by orders of magnitude, in an illustrative way.

        One speech by itself, especially one like the Obama speech last week, is going to change very little. Various people have to react to it, and other people have to react to the reactions, etc., and that takes a couple of news cycles at least.

        Now that it’s been about a week, I think it’s fair to describe his speech as polarizing. Liberals liked it, but I haven’t seen a kind word for it from anyone else. By comparison, your team did way better in the various Wisconsin controversies.

        But you are correct that our team is winning on message. That is going to have consequences I think few if any of you have appreciated yet.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Would you agree that part of the metaphorical problem is that the Republicans, metaphorically, built a metaphorical temple in the metaphorical shadow of 9/11? Instead of being allowed to metaphorically do this, the democrats ought to have metaphorically fought against this metaphorical temple metaphorically dedicated to their intolerance despite that they’ve metaphorically dressed it up as being metaphorically open to everybody so long as they metaphorically walk in metaphorical lockstep with their spectacularly intolerant religious ideas that have a very real history of committing violence against people who don’t agree with the various really ugly things their holy book says?

    Isn’t there a metaphorical elephant in the room that we’re metaphorically ignoring?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      To heighten the irony, it looks like one of Serrano’s pictures has been destroyed. Check it out.

      We’ve reached the point where these people are actively rioting in response to art. How did we get here?Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      “Would you agree that part of the metaphorical problem is that the Republicans, metaphorically, built a metaphorical temple in the metaphorical shadow of 9/11?”

      No, I would not agree with that. In fact, I think it’s straining relevance pretty hard. I take it you disagree?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If you did not exist, I would have to invent you.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          Yeah, but I’m way cooler in reality than in metaphor.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            To answer your question, when I saw an essay dedicated to nihilistic tolerance, there were a number of things that popped into my head and a number of discussions that I’ve seen, overheard, and even engaged with.

            This essay touched on a portion of those discussions while not touching on some of the other portions of those discussions we’ve seen. To the point where I saw an elephant in the room. I wanted this elephant pointed out.

            Any weapon “we” use against “reactionary” folks will, in turn, be used against “us”.

            The argument that these weapons ought not be used will then ring quite hollow.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Two kids are arguing about who gets to eat an apple. One wants to cut it in half, but the other one wants all of it. So they compromise: the selfish one gets three quarters of it.Report

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    Are Liberals Nihilistically Tolerant?

    I asked my Magic 8 Ball.* The answer, “Signs point to yes.”

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_8-BallReport

  5. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


    Democrats nowadays — and especially in the Obama era — are basically mild-mannered, technocratic pragmatists who just want to tweak our systems wherever necessary so as to improve the efficiency of what they fundamentally believe to be a sound model. Republicans tend to be the ones throwing around transformative rhetoric — just because it’s reactionary doesn’t make it conservative.

    So true conservatives should vote Democratic?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I suspect there’s already a support group meeting at some high school gym for conservatives who’ve been voting Democrat.Report

      • Avatar stillwater says:

        So true conservatives should vote Democratic?

        Conservative is the new radical, Jason. Ryan’s budget; GWB’s view of Amendments 1,4,5,6, his assimilation of the Church into the State; prevailing views of the legality of torture, etc. Good lord, it took the sanity of a crazy person (Brewer) to prevent the radicals from completely taking over Arizona.Report

    • Avatar Superluminar says:

      Heh. I’m not sure you need to go that far, but (mostly aimed at Elia here) I think that what the post really needs to get at is that the Republicans over the last few years have been engaging in some kind of purification drive, and in a two-party system this results in the other party becoming the de facto home for everyone alienated from the GOP agenda. The downside of this is that the Democrats have so many different factions that the whole “herding cats” analogy is more apposite then ever, and also the party’s agenda is too diverse/contradictory to take clear ideological stances on anything. Would appreciate thoughts along these lines.Report

  6. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    It seems that since Obamacare there’s been a backlash that’s only gained strength with the trillion dollar stimulus transfer to the states to save the public unions from layoffs, Libya, failure on the border, collapse of the dollar, rising gasoline prices, high unemployment, a true inflation rate approaching 10%, and rising food prices just to mention a few. I think Barry’s problems are not just the ‘reactionary’ GOP, which is laughable considering their lack of spine (see the $38B ‘cut’), but a mix that includes not only TPers, the party rank and file but also moderate/Reagan Dems, independents, and even some of the unwashed who are fearful Barry’s going to destroy the entire system.Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

      Bob I suggest that you save some good liquor for election night 2012.

      You are going to need something to console yourself with after the president wins relection.Report

    • Avatar stillwater says:

      a mix that includes not only TPers, the party rank and file but also moderate/Reagan Dems, independents, and even some of the unwashed who are fearful Barry’s going to destroy the entire system.

      What do you think of GW’s role in all the ‘destroy the system’ anxiety? I realize that even asking this is a bit unfair, since George is a white Christian meritocracy ownership-society kingf of guy, so attributing blame to him seems categorically misplaced. I guess I’m just curious if the concepts can be extended that far.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        NOw, calm down Still. It’s just my minority opinion. Relax dude and don’t let that Standard and Poor’s thing bother you.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          We should all thank God for Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s, the organizations which so accurately described the financial positions of Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and other fine, upstanding exemplars of Capitalism at its Finest.

          You see, Robert, the quants at S&P have gotten True Relijin. The GOP knows now, if they did not know before, that their brinksmanship could again bring down the house of cards called Wall Street and the global banking system, as they did in 2008. Should this come to pass, they will be dragged from their houses and hanged from the nearest lamp posts.

          Leading the charge will be the populist hordes to whom they promised much and delivered nothing but more disaster. The GOP, if it has an iota of political sense, will raise taxes and get our fiscal house in order. Already, their populist backers have the GOP by the short and curlies: hearts and minds are sure to follow. The GOP brought disaster on itself when it embraced the Tea Parties. I would argue it is the GOP, not the USA, which is now politically bankrupt: they have let their mouths outrun their asses.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            No one, in their right mind, would vote to ‘raise taxes’ in the face of a commie-Dem regime. That, my friend is just axing for dozens of more pogroms, more transfers of wealth to public unions and other governmental parasitic entitites, not-to-mention the obligatory transfers to the professional welfare class.Report

            • Avatar Superluminar says:

              I suppose it’s a lost cause to ask you to refrain from using either “Barry” or “commie-Dems”, isn’t it? I’m just mystified why the intelligent commenters here would bother responding, unless you are an 11-dimensionsal spoof or something, in which case fair enuff!Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Super, I’m the red-haired step child here. I’ve been taken to the woodshed so many times, I’ve worn a path. I’m trying not to use “Kenyan-Marxist” because of the unkind threats and chastizments and as you may know this sort of thing is a ‘one step at a time’ deal. Kinda like quiting smoking.
                Amusingly I’ve found a ‘progressive’, leftist, commie site run by a female commie-dem phd that makes my little critique of Barry seem inconsequential. Next time I visit I’ll get a link for you.
                ’11-dimensional spoof’ is really heavy and beyond my ken. Consider me an observer and commentor of the collapse of modernity fully visible here at the League.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Superluminar, I think that’s asking too much.
                Bob seems to be easing off the Kenyan-Marxist pejorative with regards to Obama himself.
                Barry, on the other hand, is a fair enough way to address a politician one doesn’t respect who’s first name is Barrack.
                Commie-Dems is harsh, yes, but one can fairly say that the Democratic party posesses(ed), both in its past and also in its further left wings many a communist.
                So both of those terms, while incendiary, strike me as not purely fraudulent and therefore perfectly acceptable invective to hurtle at the President and the Party respectively.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Thanks North, your analysis is pretty close.
                I’ve refrained from using ‘Kenyan-Marxist’ until Donald releases info he say he has. If Barry wasn’t born in Kenya, he’ll be a ‘Hawaiian-Marxist’ which, no doubt, will get me yet another session in the proverbial woodshed.
                BTW, I think ‘Barry’ was his name back in his yut.
                As you may know the Dems (commie and otherwise) so offend my tender sensibilities that I find it difficult to attach any of my political and repubican sympathies to their foreign/statist agenda.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Compared to the deranged anti-GOP cant that’s rampant here, Cheeks seems rather restrained.

                And unlike his counterparts on the left, he has a twinkle in his eye. They’re dead serious, and seriously in need of therapy.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Yes, Tom it’s the new me! I’m gonna be a ‘uniter not a divider.’ On every thread, from here on out, I’m gonna insist on a ‘kumbaya’ moment. After all we’re all Americans!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Yes, Tom, it’s the little green men who are following you that need therapy.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Oh Tom, the things you say.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Not the things I say, Mr. North. It’s what raises eyebrows around here compared to what does not.

                [twinkle] 😉Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “I’ve refrained from using ‘Kenyan-Marxist’ until Donald releases info he say he has.”

                Bob, why do we care if President Obama was born in Kenya. Really, what on earth difference can it possibly make?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Koz, Koz, Koz, dude, it’s the ‘fun’ factor. The fun of seeing our librul friends fume and fulminate, bitch and moan, whine and cry. I know it’s not compassionate and one should be kind to the pathologically distrubed. Apparently and admittedly, it’s a flaw in my character.
                Besides Koz, “Kenyan-Marxist” rings so clearly as universal truth, that if it isn’t, it should be.
                Alas, I’m waiting on The Donald’s findings re: Barry’s Birth and in the meantime I’m working assiduously to be a ‘uniter not a divider.’ Join me in my new endeavor.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Koz, Koz, Koz, dude, it’s the ‘fun’ factor. The fun of seeing our librul friends fume and fulminate, bitch and moan, whine and cry.”

                No Bob, they don’t. They laugh at us ‘cuz we look like idiots.

                If you were a lib desperately holding on to power as hard as your bony old hands will grip, what would you rather talk about? How you fubared the financial and political culture of the greatest nation on earth, or some random idiots over there arguing about a birth certificate?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Bingo, Mr. Koz. Crisis? What crisis?

                Trump is getting the full rectal exam [Chris Matthews led off his program with him]. Which is funny, because besides the momma grizzlies, he makes the rest of the GOP field look more presidential.

                Of course, he makes BHO look more presidential, too, which is not easy.

                If you were a lib desperately holding on to power as hard as your bony old hands will grip, what would you rather talk about? How you fubared the financial and political culture of the greatest nation on earth, or some random idiots over there arguing about a birth certificate?Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                How you fubared the financial and political culture of the greatest nation on earth

                Sorry, but this thing was a completely bipartisan affair, which makes the whole Team Red / Team Blue thing so god damn stupid. But let us continue touting the respective divinity of “our” respective team, especially in the financial mess, so 25 or 50 years down the road we can all stand, mouths agape, and ask “WTF happened?” And then the partisan bullshit can continue. A cycle, if you will.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                The Republicans spent like drunken Kennedys during the Bush era, and were rightfully tossed in 2006.

                This Republican shed not a tear. However, electing the alternative, under the rubric “things can’t get any worse,” was a considered lack of imagination.

                You allow there is actually a crisis, Mr. Boggs, and that is good. Fortunately, the Dems were at least partially tossed. But I’m afraid the trouble is more structural, this unsustainable behemoth of largesse, and that structure was not built by Republicans or “conservatives.”

                As previously wagged, the irony may be that perhaps only the GOP can save FDRism/LBJism, since progressivism demands more and more [unsustainable] progress, and is not as inclined to preserve its own gains.

                And for that, the GOP will get more blame as draconian than credit for prudence. Because that’s how the game is played.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                And Tom, I’ll agree 100% when the requisite and sizable cuts are made to the DoD. I’ll be more appreciative of the faith you have in the GOP when I hear them announcing their plans for those cuts loudly.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Well, Mark, you’d be exiting the discussion and starting another one.

                DoD should be on the table. But you’re playing hide-the-salami right now and I’m unhappy at where you aim to put it. *-X

                Let the Dems affirmatively argue to cut DoD, then. They haven’t put it on the table, choosing instead to insult Paul Ryan. To his face, when statesmanship prohibits him from answering.

                http://www.usnews.com/preview/7-73264-mika-hails-tough-obama-for-insulting-paul-ryan-his-faceReport

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                So we’re back to the divinity of your respective side?Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                BTW, I hope the dems do argue to cut DoD. Unfortunately they won’t argue to do enough if anything with entitlements and the repubs will balk at the size of the DoD cuts and we’ll go once more into the silliness.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “I’ll be more appreciative of the faith you have in the GOP when I hear them announcing their plans for those cuts loudly.”

                No Mark, this just doesn’t work, for reasons I was trying to get at in other comments in this thread.

                Let’s take a quick little demographic inventory of the participants on this site. Who here, is it plausible to guess, has voted R in a recent Presidential election? By my count it’s me, Bob Cheeks, tvd, Heidegger, Scott, DensityDuck, Mike @ Big Stick, Tim Kowal. That’s less than ten. Maybe I missed one or two but not many. Who here is a Team Red culturally alienated libertarian? Mark Thompson, Jason, Jaybird, and Erik until he turned into a Team Blue cheerleader.

                How many reasonably frequent commenters and contributors are there: 50? 500? Whatever it is, it’s way more than the dozen or so who have any sort of enthusiasm for limited government. It’s not that the rest of you are stupid or that your discussions aren’t thoughtful but when you’re talking amongst yourselves you tend to make horsetrades that have no relevance to American demographics.

                And, if President Obama loses reelection which seems completely plausible to me, for at lot of important issues you’ll have no representation at all except for lawsuits and executive agency/civil service footdragging.

                Therefore if we’re going to restore fiscal health to America, it’ll be done the way Team Red wants to do it which probably means we’re not starting with defense cuts (though they may be part of the picture).Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Which goes back to my original point, sort of, which is, neither team is serious about doing much of anything other than scoring points for the ledger book to the next election. This websites political demographic notwithstanding.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                For the record, I went for Jerry Brown as the one who could make a dent in our mess. The GOP candidate was crap.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Which goes back to my original point, sort of, which is, neither team is serious about doing much of anything other than scoring points for the ledger book to the next election.”

                No, it’s just not so.

                The GOP is serious about reducing expenditures and deficits, and they’ve shown that over a period that transcends way more than one issue or news cycle. It’s more likely about your own ability to see the evidence and accept it for what it is, which works that way because you only have understanding or appreciation for a fairly narrow slice of American political culture.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “And Tom, I’ll agree 100% when the requisite and sizable cuts are made to the DoD.”

                And fwiw, defense cuts were a significant part of the Simpson-Bowles cuts, which the Administration repudiated.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                I didn’t vote in the last Presidential election. This is not because I have no enthusiasm for limited government; nor would it be that I have no enthusiasm for hope and change. I just had no enthusiasm for the candidates or their respective parties.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                @ Koz

                > The GOP is serious about reducing
                > expenditures and deficits, and
                > they’ve shown that over a period
                > that transcends way more than
                > one issue or news cycle.

                I’m still looking for a credible analysis that supports this claim, Koz. You’ve made it before.

                > It’s more likely about your own
                > ability to see the evidence and
                > accept it for what it is

                Yes, my friend. That evidence. Where is it?

                I recently posted a comment with the government breakdown (democratic vs. republican, president house & senate) and the budget from 1949 until 2010. I really couldn’t find a correlation between political party control and spending.

                Okay, maybe I’m an idiot or lazy, but you seem to think that this evidence exists and is plain to see. You’re saying, “See, the evidence is plain! It’s right there!”, and (on more than one occasion now) I’ve said, “Where is ‘there’? Which direction are you pointing, because I don’t see it?”Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “I’m still looking for a credible analysis that supports this claim, Koz. You’ve made it before.”

                Well, let’s see. There’s the CR’s, the Ryan plan, the lame duck tax negotiations, the various iterations of the health care bill, the stimulus package, the Ryan-Rivlin plan, Simpson-Bowles, Wisconsin, various proposals from the Republican Study Committee, that’s pretty good for starters. If you stretch a little bit you could also include the Libya intervention and TARP.

                Basically every significant move of the Obama Administration has increased expenditures, every significant move of the Republicans/Tea Parties has been an attempt to lower or control expenditures.

                This is far more important than the comparison between Eisenhower and Truman or whatever, where the numbers are vague and political accountability is unclear.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > Basically every significant move
                > of the Obama Administration
                > has increased expenditures,
                > every significant move of the
                > Republicans/Tea Parties has
                > been an attempt to lower or
                > control expenditures.

                Yes, because “political speak” equates what you’ll actually *do*… when “doing things” is under the control of your agenda instead of the other side’s.

                > This is far more important than
                > the comparison between Eisenhower
                > and Truman or whatever, where
                > the numbers are vague and
                > political accountability is unclear.

                Bullshit. Okay, well, let me rephrase that. You obviously believe that.

                I believe the *exact polar opposite* to be much more important. Our worldviews may be completely divergent.

                Crying that somebody is spending too much money when they’re in charge (and fighting their agenda for obvious political capital)… grants you zero credibility with me when you don’t do anything to rein in spending *when you in fact are in charge*.

                And there is *zero* credible evidence of the GOP taking a consistent, thorough approach towards reining in spending historically. In fact, there is a decent amount of historical evidence that points to the exact opposite: when in charge, they spend as much if not more money, in absolute terms, on the things they care about.

                In other words, I believe not your claim that the GOP is a credible proponent of small government. I believe that they are marketed as such, though.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Crying that somebody is spending too much money when they’re in charge (and fighting their agenda for obvious political capital)… grants you zero credibility with me when you don’t do anything to rein in spending *when you in fact are in charge*.”

                This is my turn to call bullshit, Pat.

                It was bullshit before but now post-election it’s double bullshit. The Ryan plan, Simpson-Bowles, the CR negotiations, they are attempted assertions of control of the GOP where they have some measure of political power to put that power on the line in the service of small government, and particularly fewer government expenditures.

                Every reasonably recent, reasonably significant piece of evidence tells the same story. Their team is for high government expenditures, our team isn’t. You don’t get clearer ideological differentiation in a two party system, except maybe for abortion.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                I’m not sure partisan history is helpful here, Pat.

                Not much daylight between them in Nixon vs. JFK. The repulsive guy lost, narrowly.

                Neither when Nixon won in ’68 can we say he stood in opposition to LBJism. Looking back, his admin is considered rather liberal, or not-conservative.

                Ford vs. Carter? Meh.

                Reagan wins, but enjoys only a brief respite from Dem control of Congress. I believe in his own words, he could get a tough Soviet policy or confront spending, but not both. He chose to fight the Commies overseas rather than the ones in DC.

                [OK, OK, cheap. Couldn’t resist. That one was for Cheeks.]

                Bush41 vs. Clinton, again a push. Clinton was fiscally responsible, esp after being neutered by the GOP takeover of Congress in ’94.

                Bush43 and his GOP Congress. They lost their way on spending, as anyone who got booted in ’06 can tell you. [Both Dubya and Gore promised prescription drugs for seniors. That was gonna happen either way.]

                Dems in ’06 then Obama in ’08. Have you seen the numbers?

                Tea Party in ’10. Much hostility towards the GOP country club establishment, incumbents like Bennett and sure things like Crist bounced by the insurgency.

                ’12? Depends on the current showdown. But considering this cosmetic $40B cut was called draconian by the Dems, it’s hard to put them in the spending cut column.

                Until the current crisis, the diff between the parties was more one of degree, the GOP being Democrat-lite. In a way, Clinton was GOP-lite, and although he won 2 terms [against some flaccid opposition], on the whole he was a disaster for his party downticket.

                As Truman said,

                “The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat…”

                And that’s true of phony Republicans, too. Although you’d scoff, I think conservatives and the electorate at large felt that the Bush-era GOP was just that.

                So, I think that all bets are off for ’12.

                http://www.mlive.com/jobs/index.ssf/2011/04/government_cash_handouts_top_tax_revenue.html

                Paul has just overtaken Peter, for the first time since the Great Depression. This is just entitlements, leaving out gov’t’s proper function of defense, etc.

                In the fat, happy days, it was only a question of whether we’d spend X or 2X on some desirable goal, but money was going to spent on it regardless. But the game has changed. Peter and Paul are no longer on the same page.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > The Ryan plan

                This is a non-starter. It will not happen with a split Congress and a Democratic President. This isn’t a plan, it is window dressing, totally un-serious. If the deficit was really so critical (to Congressional Republicans) as they claim, they would have offered way more in the way of cuts that bleed themselves. At least there you’d have a decent shot at a high ground in negotiations.

                > Simpson-Bowles

                IIRC, S-B was a bipartisan affair.

                > the CR negotiations

                Yes, this was a serious attempt to sell “we’ll make cuts” to the American public. I don’t find $38 billion in cuts to be a really fantastical deal, but I’ll give you that nod. I don’t think it is enough evidence to convince me.

                > They are attempted assertions of
                > control of the GOP where they
                > have some measure of political
                > power to put that power on the
                > line in the service of small
                > government

                Let me ask you this, Koz.

                Let us assume for the nonce that in 2012, the GOP wins the Presidency and retains one House of Congress.

                Will the budget be balanced in 2015?

                If you say yes, how much are you willing to bet?

                Does having both Houses change your certainty? How much are you willing to bet, now?

                How about you win both houses of Congress, but don’t gain the Presidency?

                Tell me what your odds and stakes are.

                Here’s one prediction I’d make: regardless of who is in control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, the odds of the budget being balanced depend entirely upon the political calculus of who will be in office when the budget is in fact balanced.

                If there’s a proposed balanced budget, it will be a budget plan that will result in a balanced budget in 2014 + enough years for credible deniability for the Congress that passes it when it fails to meet that goal.

                *Nobody* in power in 2012 is going to pass a budget that will be balanced in 2016 or earlier. Because there is no freaking way you’re getting elected in the 2016 elections if you cut that much and/or raise taxes that much.

                I’ll bet $20 on that.

                @ Tom

                > And that’s true of phony Republicans,
                > too. Although you’d scoff, I think
                > conservatives and the electorate at
                > large felt that the Bush-era GOP
                > was just that.

                Actually, I won’t scoff. I’ll agree that true conservatives felt the Bush-era GOP were phony Republicans. I’ll even write off all of the “mainstream we claim to be Right” pundits who were Dubya backers.

                I don’t see the GOP fundamentally becoming true Conservatives, though. Even now, I see way more in the way of phony waves to the social conservative base than I do real credible attempts at fiscal conservativism.

                And as I mentioned below, I think both the GOP and Team Blue are due for some serious marketing problems in the next decade.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “It will not happen with a split Congress and a Democratic President.”

                Maybe, maybe not. It’s not possible under the current frame of mind, but we shouldn’t think that sort of thing never changes. When Reagan gave the speech at the Brandenburg, it was unrealistic and inflammatory to him to challenge Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Nonetheless, three years later it was gone. Obama, or someone else, will be the Gorbachev for this particular bunch of Commies (Hi Bob!).

                “IIRC, S-B was a bipartisan affair.”

                It was supposed to be till it was repudiated by Team Blue.

                “I don’t find $38 billion in cuts to be a really fantastical deal, but I’ll give you that nod. I don’t think it is enough evidence to convince me.”

                It wouldn’t be by itself. Like Lester Freamon said, all the pieces matter. This piece is particularly important because it erased any plausible deniability for Team Blue that they would be willing to cut this or that except for Team Red.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Let us assume for the nonce that in 2012, the GOP wins the Presidency and retains one House of Congress.

                Will the budget be balanced in 2015?
                ……………
                Here’s one prediction I’d make: regardless of who is in control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, the odds of the budget being balanced depend entirely upon the political calculus of who will be in office when the budget is in fact balanced. “

                Now we’re might be getting somewhere. I don’t think the budget will be balanced in 2015, but it makes a huge difference how much the deficit is and the perceived trajectory of expenditures.

                In any case, I disagree with the part about who is in charge when the budget is balanced. In fact I don’t know if that will be a good thing or a bad thing. What is much more important are the macroeconomic events between now and then. I don’t know why this is getting lost. It’s not supposed to be obscure, from me at least. I don’t think even nondrooler liberals such as yourself have any appreciation for the extent to which you’ve put the basic structure of civilization at risk.

                http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/morning-jay-make-no-mistake-economy-problem-obama_556853.html?nopager=1

                See first chart at the link (from Jay Cost). It’s an open question whether the growth path of the postwar economy will ever recover. The perception of this one way or other will be much more powerful than typical political considerations.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                “Nondrooler liberals such as yourself…”

                Now that’s the cross-aisle ecumenicalism I’m talkin’ ’bout! WD, Mr. Koz. Ain’t axin’ for much here.
                __________

                To the substance, the Ryan plan acknowledges that “balancing the budget” [as if!] in the short term would be far too traumatic. You have to cap an oil well fire before you shut off every drip.

                Paul Ryan for President? The man is the most statesmanlike of any political figure on the national stage—and that includes the Current Occupant, who was anything but statesmanlike toward Ryan, attempting to embarrass him publicly, to his face.

                http://www.usnews.com/preview/7-73264-mika-hails-tough-obama-for-insulting-paul-ryan-his-face

                [Yes, I’m still angry at this.]

                Ryan replied later with just enough aplomb to recall another fella who disarmed an incumbent with “There you go again, Mr. President.”

                I happen to agree with Mr. Koz here that the debt crisis is our greatest national challenge, and it’s not a party thing. Europe is hitting the same wall. It’s a crisis of the West.

                Paul Ryan is a bit weaselly in bearing, but not as bad as Pawlenty. Balance him with another credible and creditable budget wonk who’s gained a bit of weight since he was last on the national stage, and

                Ryan/Kasich. Or vice-versa. Serious Cats.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > In any case, I disagree with the
                > part about who is in charge when
                > the budget is balanced. In fact I
                > don’t know if that will be a good
                > thing or a bad thing.

                Not sure you grokked what I was saying there.

                Balancing the budget, however you tackle it, is going to require a lot of choices that will make a lot of people very unhappy. Partisanship aside, any budget that represents a more or less stable influx and outflow of revenue and government spending is going to look *drastically* different from what today’s budget (or Dubya’s budget, or Reagan’s budget, or even Clinton’s budget – more on that below* – looked like). Right now, every major constituency has a huge investment in a budget that looks like the one we have, at least as far as *their* particular interests are concerned.

                A balanced budget is a political loser. It likely is the right thing to do, but passing such a budget is not going to get you re-elected. Unless, of course, the economy is going through a major boom, in which case you can get away with it because nobody has to feel the pain*.

                > What is much more important
                > are the macroeconomic events
                > between now and then.

                Oh, I totally agree with that statement.

                > I don’t know why this is getting
                > lost.

                Because for the most part our political discourse (and by “our”, I mean “American public”, not “you and I here on this blog” or “politically astute observers of any political inclination”) is driven by bullshit?

                * My observation is this: the country has lost a substantial advantage that it had for the last 60 years: it used to be that in order to make a lot of money, you had to come here. So capital gravitated here. That is still more true than lots of other places, but the dynamic is changing, and the rate of change is increasing. I don’t see that reversing.

                What that meant was that a lot of economic activity occurred here. And that in no small part gave the cushion to our middle class between 1940 and 1990 that enabled it to flourish the way it did.

                Now, the last three iterations of boom-n-bust (the S&L crisis, the dot-com boom, and the real estate crisis) are symptomatic (IMO) of an underlying major sickness in the economy. Our fundamentals, as presidential candidates are so fond of saying, are *not* sound. So any economic “recovery” we have is very likely to be just a new boom and bust cycle starting up (indeed, the CDS market is *still* utterly broken, as is the real estate market, but many of the consequences of that bust have been entirely hidden from the American public, so we’re still overdue for that correction – 2008 is not over yet).

                > I don’t think even nondrooler liberals
                > such as yourself have any
                > appreciation for the extent to
                > which you’ve put the basic structure
                > of civilization at risk.

                As I’m so often saying, I’m not a liberal. I’m personally socially to the left, but I’m less convinced in the aggregate activity of the cap-L left when it comes to social issues. Economically I’m adogmatic; I don’t really believe that either party has a real grip on economic reality and usually I’m arguing against both sides, because I largely reject the underlying framework that both sides use. But that’s just me.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Ok. It seems like we’re actually in quite a bit of agreement except maybe for the actual state and intentions of the Republicans.

                “A balanced budget is a political loser. It likely is the right thing to do, but passing such a budget is not going to get you re-elected. Unless, of course, the economy is going through a major boom, in which case you can get away with it because nobody has to feel the pain*.”

                Except maybe here. There was a time when the Berlin Wall was going to stand forever, maybe even at the time Reagan gave his speech at the Brandenburg gate. And it would have, except for the fact that the economic and cultural situation in the USSR and its satellites made previously unthinkable things very plausible.

                It’s actually much more likely to happen now than if growth were 4%+ for a few years and it looks like we can run deficits indefinitely.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Whelp, it’s certainly the case that major crises are times when you can see a sea change occur that is unexpected during times of relative normalcy.

                And I gladly admit I think we’re screwed, so crisis time is a’ brewin’. Passing a balanced budget may indeed be seen as a political winner in such an incidence.

                But boy howdy do I not see it right now.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “And I gladly admit I think we’re screwed, so crisis time is a’ brewin’.”

                I actually don’t. The essence of the problem is commitments to future expenditures. Once we unwind those commitments, we’ve got a real chance to work on what’s left. And luckily, we’ve got the Republicans on the case, who are executing better than we have any right to expect (and let’s face it, better than the American people deserve). And in fact once we get the right answer (like the rebound of the American economy in the early 80s and the fall of the Soviet bloc in the late 80s), things might turn around quicker than we expect.

                It’s also important to note, that the Obama/lib fiscal strategy is very glib wrt the depth of our problems. They’ve been a little more forthcoming in the last couple of weeks or so, but their basic argument is that deficits and debt aren’t really a problem. Good luck with that one.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Can you name some communists in the Democratic party? I’ll settle for one, though two or three would be best. And Bernie Sanders, who’s not a communist, and not a Democrat, won’t do.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Alcoa is just turning the corner, trading above 16 again. If tin foil hats are now the latest fashion statement, maybe I ought to go long AA.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Off the top of my head, no, and certainly not in a significant leadership position. But in the vast group that comprises the entire party rank and file I’ve no doubt one can find some and if you include historically it’s a near certainty.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                But in the vast group that comprises the entire party rank and file I’ve no doubt one can find some and if you include historically it’s a near certainty.

                That’s wonderful. So you can’t think of any Democrats who are or were communists, but you’re certain that in the past and how the Democratic party, particularly in its left wing, contained many a communist. Got ya.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Dude, we’re talking about whether the perjorative “Commie-dem” is as baseless and fraudulent as Kenyan-Marxist.

                I am sorry but I just don’t think it is. I’m a dem myself so I certainly don’t think the party is communist but it is the party of the left and its leftmost fringe is pretty much the only place where your average practical minded communists (one who doesn’t want to heave their vote on a 3rd party) can roost.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Northie, appreciate your intellectual defense of my use of the term, “commie-dem” as a descriptive political phrase. I’m not sure why anyone would want to argue? Re: my use of “Kenyan-Marxist” as a descriptor of Hisself, and as “baseless and fraudulent…”, well there’s a new book coming out that MAY address that. Frankly, I’m inclined to agree that he’s a “Hawaiian-Marxists” but there’s some really weird stuff going on with Barry’s life prior to 2004 where some wackly, left-wing, phd said that Barry signed an executive order to have all his records sealed. I can’t tell you how much I hope that’s true!
                Again, thanks for always being there as a stalwart for free expression, etc.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                That line of argument could be used to make Republicans racists, of course.

                Nevermind. Too late. It is used to make Republicans racist.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Be more creative, Tom: the real racists are the liberals. I mean, who uses racist terms like ‘Colored” and “Negro” any more except for the NAACP and the UNCF?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                I’m not into the race-baiting stuff, Mr. Schilling.

                Of course, being a melanin-challenged gentleperson of the right, being unconcerned with race makes me insensitive and ignorant, oblivious of my own “white privilege.”

                You fellas got me either way. Nice racket you have going there.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Because a very small number of communists have voted Democrat at some point in history, “commie-dem” isn’t off base? By that reasoning, I’m certain that “fascist-repub” and even “nazi-repub” aren’t off base. And I say this as someone who wishes there were real socialists among the Democrats.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Ya know, I knew a Democrat who was a real jerk. Can we call them Demo-jerks? I also knew a Republican who was a total asshat. How about Republi-asshats?

                The term is only appropriate if there is something inherently communist about the ideology of democrats. Otherwise, you are mistaking correlation with causation. Even if a majority of communists were to support the Democratic Party, that still would not make the term apt. Otherwise, we could call them Black-Dems or Gay-Dems or White-GOPers. Would any of those be appropriate?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Off base? I didn’t say it’s not off base. But it’s not in the same league of outright fabrication that Kenyan-marxist is.
                And yes, I do think that a left wing equivalent of Bob Cheeks would probably call the GOP Republican-fascists or republican-theocrats with roughly the same amount of basis.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            “The GOP, if it has an iota of political sense, will raise taxes and get our fiscal house in order.”

            They are. And, because the D’s are completely unwilling to cut expenditures, if we can catch a break or two we can write the D’s out of the equation altogether.Report

            • Avatar stillwater says:

              The House GOPers came into session promising 100 billion in spending cuts. They quickly realized that at best they could get to 50 billion, which was negioted down.

              Now the GOP, so set on balancing the budget, is proposing (simultaneously!) tax cuts for the wealthy and the elimination of Medicare. Their budget proposal actually (nah! say it ain’t so!) increases the deficit (if the CBO is to be believed, pffft!).Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Yeah. The point being, it’s not credible to think (for the Tea Party or anybody else) that it’s the GOP which is in the way of spending cuts. Anybody out there who wants government to get smaller has a very good mechanism to see that happen.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well, technically, the GOP is opposed to spending cuts if they are bundled with tax increases or if they are aimed at GOP sacred cows. Which is to say the GOP is in favor of spending cuts only in exactly the way the GOP wants them. If Obama came out with a bunch of spending cuts that included cuts to the DoD and other GOP pet projects bundled with some tax increases that balanced the budget you can be certain that the GOP would reject it.

                Which is why, in my mind, it’s so important Obama or the Dem leadership do so.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Well, technically, the GOP is opposed to spending cuts if they are bundled with tax increases or if they are aimed at GOP sacred cows.”

                Well, it certainly is under a Demo President.

                That leads to another point that’s flying under radar for the moment but will be important once it comes to light: anybody who wants tax increases after 2o12 should be voting Republican. The GOP can afford to vote for tax increases (or the expiration of the Bush tax cuts), if the GOP controls Congress and the Presidency. Otherwise, they can’t. There’s no point in giving the D’s or a D President any more of the taxpayers money: they’d just blow it.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Haha… at some point, this really just looks like post hoc rationalization. Yeah, the Republicans are increasing the deficit, but spending cuts, therefore smaller government, and the Republicans are the ones who really care about deficits! And while Republicans have been very clear about not raising taxes, even on the rich (when 80% of the country wants the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to end, and there’s no fiscal reason to keep them), secretly they’re the ones who will raise taxes, because, you know, nth dimensional chess and all that.

                I wish I could take any of this seriously, but it really just looks like… well, it doesn’t look like anything serious.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                With Koz the GOP is never wrong.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What if they do something bipartisan?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “…secretly they’re the ones who will raise taxes, because, you know, nth dimensional chess and all that.”

                I dunno, it seems pretty clear to me. We can’t afford to raise taxes with a D President ‘cuz they’d just blow the money. Therefore if you want to raise revenue, vote R. Maybe that’s just too complicated for you.

                And as far as what you’re willing to take seriously, if you and/or a sufficient number of other Americans will vote R for a cycle or two, we don’t have to worry about that, right?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “With Koz the GOP is never wrong.”

                Well, when they’re right, they’re right. And, IIRC, you were the one who wrote to me here that the US Treasuries would never take a downgrade from a major rating agency because there were a sufficient number of Democrats as prominent bankers. Are you still standing behind that?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                On a US treasury credit rating downgrade? Oh yes, definitly. I still am quite certain that there’s no way that the Dem’s would allow a rating downgrade; it would be suicidal.
                I will allow that the Dems and the GOP together could, under a plausible enough scenario, perhaps accidentally roll into a downgrade through excessive political brinkmanship but neith individual party would willingly do it on their own. They’d probably get whiped out as a national party if they did.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Allow”?

                You do realize that bond ratings are judgments of long-term credit quality of third parties and not simply acts of fiat by debt issuers? IIRC the item of that news cycle was a warning that Moody’s might downgrade Treasuries by 2018. It’s now 2011 and there is already a negative outlook from S&P. Isn’t it fair to conclude that sometimes events will overtake what is “allowed” by the magical Demo bankers?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Magic Bankers nothing Koz ya cheeky bugger. My point was not that bankers would refuse to downgrade the countries rating if it deserved it; my point was that the Democratic party can’t be willing to let the financial state of the country get so bad that such a rating would be merited since that would be electoral suicide.
                All that the ratings agencies and the bond markets want is an indication that the country is on a path to sound financial footing. That is far from an impossible feat to accomplish. Even if the only thing Obama did was refuse to extend Bush’s tax cuts when they turn into pumpkins in 2012 that would still be enough to significantly improve the balance of accounts to mollify the bankers. I personally hope Obama shows some acumen for a change and rolls out a real plan to contrast with Ryan’s joke proposal including real cuts to Republican sacred cows like corporate welfare, agricultural subsidies and the DoD.
                Every other country in the west that has recently fixed their budgetary outlooks have done so through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. There’s no reason why the US should be the exception to the rule.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “All that the ratings agencies and the bond markets want is an indication that the country is on a path to sound financial footing. That is far from an impossible feat to accomplish.”

                Yikes. You do realize that something being possible and the same thing being inevitable are not at all the same thing right North? And in any case, we seem to be heading towards a downgrade now under the leadership of the Democratic Party, bankers or otherwise. Right?Report

              • Avatar stillwater says:

                So smaller government with a higher deficit and completely uncontrolled healthcare cost gobbling up ever more of the GDP is preferrable to policies that decrease the deficit and constrain healthcare cost increases?

                On what grounds?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Because the GOP is going to cut expenditures to the point where it’s plausible for the private sector to invest in America again, and we can all go back to work.Report

              • Avatar stillwater says:

                Can’t tell if this is snark…

                Private sector investment in America (big business is sitting on 1.3 trillion in cash) is determined by profitability, not government spending. The private sector will ‘invest in America’ in the sense of creating jobs when US wages are low enough that offshoring/outsourcing is no longer profitable.Report

              • Avatar stillwater says:

                Also, you’re response didn’t address the question.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                It’s not snark at all. (We’ve been talking about this on some other threads.) In fact, the amount of uninvested corporate cash is a key data point. I’ve actually heard numbers higher than $1.3T, but the point is the same in any event.

                Whoever puts capital at risk has to be confident that in the long-term economic environment. And in America, because of the current government debts, and most importantly, future government obligations there is no such confidence. Therefore there is no investment, and consequently no job creation.

                And, our team has the way out, which is only now filtering into the political discourse. But we should expect that it carries the possibility of changing things in a big way.Report

              • Avatar Shygetz says:

                Horse-poo. The GOP is definitively in the way of several types of spending cuts, e.g. defense, certain corporate subsidies and tax breaks, etc. To think otherwise is to be willfully blind of their voting record. And need I remind you that many of our most recent budget-busting items were the brainchild of a Republican administration (Medicare Part D, TARP, Bush tax cuts).Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Uh, no. When you look at all the various budget moves over the last three years or so, ie, the stimulus package, the Ryan plan, Simpson-Bowles, the most recent CR’s, the GOP has put just about every element of federal expenditures on the table for cutting except interest on federal debt.

                The D’s are reactionaries defending every last particle of federal spending. That’s why we’re killing the debt issue at the moment, and unless something changes (and I’m not expecting it to) it’s going to stay that way through the election cycle.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The fearful have been ululating and gibbering, dancing around the fire since Obama was elected. Their birther witch doctors and juju men and assorted Bearded Prophets types have been predicting the Obamination of Desolation and the Wrath of God Pour’d out upon the Wicked for long enough. It’s not coming. The system will do just fine, as it always has, and under worse circumstances than these.

      Obama’s boys have rescued Wall Street and done a damned fine job on Main Street, though you won’t acknowledge any good thing done by the Kenyan Marxist.

      The firing tables for your PoMo Poo Flinger reveal its signal weakness: it is only useful as a point blank weapon. Fired a few times, its deadly projectiles fall on friend and enemy alike, Robert. Often enough, it blows up in the mortar pit you’ve dug for it, inundating the crew. Really, Robert, nobody can take this sort of thing seriously. Lack of spine… spare me this frenetic blowing upon the Dog Whistle. Nobody but dogs will respond to it.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        “Nobody but dogs will respond to it.” Well, I certainly don’t think your fine response was dog-like, though if you lie down with ’em you get…well, you know.
        Bp, thanks for the above. I’ve got tears in my eyes from laughing. If we were in a pub, I’d buy a round and as you may have guessed that doesn’t happen that much.
        On a serious note, I do think Barry’s crowds are thinning out simply because he’s being interpreted not only as a ‘false’ god (he didn’t deliver on free cars, gas, homes, edumacation and so forth-“Obama’s stash”) but also because he’s betrayed so much of what you progressives believe in. Poor old Freddie DeBoer being a case in point. I actually feel kinda sad for Fred, whose heart is as pure as any misguided libertarians.
        I would also like to point out that he also appears to be ‘wandering’ in his speeches…and, that’s not a good sign.
        And, while I don’t wanna throw gas on the fire, I do think it’s possible that due to his gross incompetence and his application of failed commie priniciples, assuming he doesn’t (desire to) totally wreck the American economy, he may have put an end to the modern welfare state as we know it.
        Now you calm down old-timer. I know when I’ve struck nerve and as you know my only desire is to exchange ideas with all my friends here at the League. Hell, I haven’t even mentioned Barry’s “Kenyan-Marxist” status, and I trust you’ll not bring it up in future posts!Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          As I said elsewhere, the Whinging of the Disenchanted is musick unto mine ear, set to something from one of the more obscure operas of Handel, bel canto for some mellifluous baritone to make the old trouts weep into their embroidered hankies.

          Progressives have come to understand they will not get all they want. Lions, it seems, lie down with lambs only after they have run them down and messily killed them. The GOP may have gained the House in the last hustings, but their much-squawking has resulted in absolutely nothing of substance. The Tea Partiers they so warmly embraced not so many months ago are proving fractious allies, as fractious as the now-extinct Blue Dogs were for Obama back in the day.

          Obama does not preach the simplistic sermons you might like. They may be above your reading and comprehension level, leading you to believe he is Wandering. You have not struck any nerves, Punchinello, except my funny bone. We had a generous dose of Wrecked Economy under that simpleton Bush43, whose kiddie sermons may have been at your level of comprehension, simple stuff like You’re Either With Us Or Against Us. The grown-ups are now in charge of the White House.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Bp, you’re goin’ round the bend dude. Most people, even commie-dems, look on the Bush 43 years as the good old days. Even Bush the Lessor left office with gasoline at $1.80 or so.
            Your confused leader, fearless or otherwise, has managed to squander nearly a Trillion buck on, among other things, funnelling (laundering) money back to the state’s public union thugs so they wouldn’t be layed off or have their hard earned wages cut while everybody else suffers during Barry’s depression. So when the public axes Barry, “Where’s the infrasturcture repairs” you can tell ’em.
            If the ‘grown-ups’ are in power now, we are in some deep doo.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Poor old Cheeks. There’s a saying in Japanese, chanting Nembutsu to a horse.

              In Japan, two religions coexist, Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto has rituals for the young but Buddhism is for the elderly. Now when folks get old, they start thinking about reincarnation. The Pure Land school of Buddhism preaches a doctrine wherein a soul is granted access to the Western Paradise if they chant Praise to the Buddha of Light, which in Japanese emerges as Namu Amida Butsu. All you have to do is say this phrase in a mindful state and you’re on your way to the Western Paradise.

              So these oldsters sit in meditation, chanting this phrase over and over, until it’s all slurred together into Nembutsu. So what if someone wanted to enlighten his horse. He’d chant Nembutsu into the horse’s ear, but of course, the horse doesn’t understand the first thing about Buddhism and it does no good.

              So don’t ask me to explain Obama’s actions or policies. I’ve tried. You don’t get it. I swear, you don’t read a thing I write. It’s chanting Nembutsu to a horse.Report

            • Avatar Shygetz says:

              Are you mad? Seriously, that level of wishful thinking borders on pathological. Obama has high popularity levels compared to other presidents at this point in their first term, and even conservatives are still rushing to disown Bush 2.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Since I have this weird narcissistic disassociative thing going on, I think I will repeat myself. I said this last week:

    What I see as the fundamental tension is that there is a third religion at play: The American Religion.

    Christianity and The American Religion have been mostly compatible, for the most part, until fairly recently. Their overlaps certainly were more important than their doctrinal differences. It was like the Presbyterians and the Baptists. Maybe the members of *THIS* religion thought that the members of *THAT* religion were all going to Hell (Presbyterians baptize babies! It’s true! They also drink!), but, hey. You don’t say that sort of thing out loud. Not everybody can be like us and that certainly shouldn’t prevent us from having the occasional softball game together on Saturdays.

    Christianity and the American Religion got along.

    Where there were dust-ups were over such things as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Educational Policy (specifically in Biology classes), and Public Displays of Affection.

    When The American Religion won (Freedom of Speech! Freedom of the Press!), this was cause for some grumbling but, for the most part, Christians were able to suck it up and keep moving because, for the most part, everybody was in agreement.

    In 1989, there was a schism. Rushdie had written a book the year before, you see, and a bunch of Muslims found it offensive.

    There was a huge portion of the American Religion that argued that we needed to be tolerant of the feelings of the Muslims and if their culture found Rushdie’s book offensive, then that was their right as a culture and Rushdie ought to have handled these revered Icons with much more respect and decorum than he did.

    The other portion of the American Religion, like clockwork, started whooping and hollering about “Freedom of the Press” and the right of the author to be offensive, and if you don’t want a copy of the book, don’t buy one, and you CERTAINLY shouldn’t put a FREAKING FATWA on him!!!

    And, of course, the Christians didn’t help by splitting into two camps with one camp pointing out the very recent Serrano kerfuffle regarding a crucifix and some used diet soda and screaming about how Muslims needed to get used to art and the other camp pointing out the very recent Serrano kerfuffle and screaming about how people who were easily offended by blasphemy needed to be catered to.

    This fight was never resolved.

    It went to sleep.

    Until 2001.

    Now I will expand on that and say that this essay seems to me to be discussing various tactics the current incarnation of The American Religion may want to start employing against the old, ugly, intolerant Religion that we, as a society, have grown out of.

    Tolerance has a lot of upsides that are easy to forget in the face of the visceral joy we see on the faces of those who engage in intolerance. And intolerance, historically, has a *LOT* of downsides.

    Have more faith in The American Religion. It works, if you let it.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      This is percolating. I think you’ve got something here.Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      Ok. How does this tie in with the idea that President Obama and the D’s are too soft in negotiating budgets and size-of-government issues with the GOP, which I take it is the point of the OP?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        What it *DOES* do is address the underlying point which seems to be “are the Democrats too tolerant of an ideology that wants to harm the country???”

        Now, I do think that the Republicans, whatever their faults, do *NOT*, in fact, want to harm the country.

        The odd thing is that there *ARE* ideologies out there that *DO* want to harm the country and these ideologies (some of them have even been in the newspapers!) were not mentioned at all.

        Indeed, there is a particularly interesting debate over whether we ought to tolerate these ideologies or whether we ought to actively fight against them (convert them to Christianity, etc)… and discussions of what “tolerance” entails, exactly.

        Do “political cartoons” count as intolerance?
        Does “rioting when you hear about political cartoons” count as intolerance?

        Interesting questions!

        But this essay was talking about whether Democrats were “Nihilistically Tolerant” of Republicans.

        Republicans! As if the Republicans weren’t the biggest *ENABLERS* of the Democratic Party!

        I was interested in the debate over “Nihilistic Tolerance” rather than whether Republicans were the last, best hope for fiscal sanity.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          Ok. Even so, I still don’t see where the American Religion fits in. More than that, I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that makes sense outside of context. Certainly I think you’d agree that the nature of the conversation would be much different if we were talking about Muslims, Communists or the Yellow Peril as opposed to Republicans.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Certainly I think you’d agree that the nature of the conversation would be much different if we were talking about Muslims, Communists or the Yellow Peril as opposed to Republicans.

            And my question is over the use of “Nihilistic Tolerance” without mention of the last 500 times the term has been debated in the context of Muslims, or Communists, or the Yellow Peril, or Catholics, or what have you.Report

            • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

              I don’t understand why you think it’s self-evident that anyone who uses the words “nihilistic” and “tolerance” together must only talk about religious extremism.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Elia, I am not saying “only”.

                This is your post! Talk about what you want!

                If, however, you strain at a gnat whilst swallowing a camel, you should not be surprised to hear people discussing camels rather than gnats.Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                “If, however, you strain at a gnat whilst swallowing a camel, you should not be surprised to hear people discussing camels rather than gnats.”

                1. Point well taken. (I misunderstood you, as well.)
                2. I’ve never heard this one before — it’s good! Is it from anything in particular?Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              Ok. My guess is, American Religion is different than what you’re supposing and likely to be taken that way by other people. Tolerance of this or that can be understood more simply on its own terms.Report

  8. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    How many more of these Democrats are Wimps screeds are necessary before someone applies some historical thinking and elementary research to current legislative trends?

    The most successful legislator in American history was Lyndon Johnson, who was an FDR man from the first. Bill Clinton took many pages from LBJ’s book but not enough. Now Obama takes a huge swath of strategy from both, with the exquisite cheat codes of both Bill and Hillary Clinton to guide him away from their failures.

    Do Liberals really want to return to the era of Jimmy Carter, with a stern little micromanaging martinet, driven only by principles, surrounded with a coterie of country bumpkins ignorant of the horsetrading of politics? I think not. I am unhappy with Obama’s failures to act on his principles but I have no doubt those principles guide his efforts.

    How the Liberals of LBJ’s era howled when he compromised with the GOP of his day! LBJ was pushed into Vietnam as Kennedy had been pushed. As far back as Eisenhower the Idealists and Warmongers had stood up, demanding a firm response to the threat of Communism.

    Hey, Hey, LBJ! How many boys did you kill today?

    Nobody’s ever happy with the President they elected. Like silly schoolchildren obsessing over the pretty faces of the movie stars, they lack the experience and cynicism to see beyond those smiling faces to the congregation of makeup artists, best boys, grips, stylists, photographers, electricians and the craft guy stocking sandwiches just out of the frame, gathered in a semicircle around the focal point, the object of their adoration.

    Disenchantment. How I love that word. It is a word used by the stupid become wise very much against their will. Obama is fighting the battles he can win, as cleverly as anyone in politics has ever fought them.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Obama is fighting the battles he can win, as cleverly as anyone in politics has ever fought them.

      Um.

      What?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Pugnat Obama sola vincere bellis.

        Grow the fish up, Jaybird.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          This is one of those wacky things because I see Obama and I see someone who reminds me of Bush the Lesser.

          I don’t see someone who is winning as cleverly as anyone in politics has ever (!!!) fought them.

          As a matter of fact, I’m reminded of the folks who told me stuff similar to how much of a master gamesman Bush was (“misunderestimated”, etc).

          Including the part where they told me to grow up when I questioned them.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Again, you ought to explain yourself. You’re sounding like a little kid asking “Why?” and it’s become tiresome, hence the call to grow the fish up. I’ve laid out my case for Obama behaving very much like Bill Clinton and LBJ in response to the demands of the Liberal wing of his party, to which the only response seems to be a petulant Childish Why.

            There’s a huge difference between Bush43 and Obama. Bush43 was never in charge of his own message, nor was he in charge of his legislative agenda. Look at the colossal fish-up with the Prescription Drug Bill, a political sop to oldsters. It’s hard to project just how much it’s going to cost, but it will be more than a trillion over the next decade, by my numbers. How can anyone who let that gargantuan turd pass through the bowels of Congress seriously oppose Obama’s HCR?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Well, this is where, again, I am confused.

              You say “extraordinary claim!”
              I say “what?” because this extraordinary claim is, seriously, extraordinary.
              You’re responding by attacking me personally rather than explaining your extraordinary claim.

              I mean, thanks for not calling me racist or homophobic, but still.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Obama wins where it matters. His stimulus bill went through like shit through a goose. He got HCR passed where nobody had before, though they’d been trying since the era of FDR. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. A new START treaty. Iraq drawdown. A delicate tap dance through the land mines of the Arab revolutions.

                Obama fought his real enemies and coopted them where it mattered. He got HCR through by dealing with those actual enemies: Billy Tauzin and Karen Ignagni, the AARP crowd, the people who could have derailed it aborning. It was an ugly win, but it was a win and his GOP enemies could do nothing but rattle the bars of their monkey cages. Obama was simply faster on the draw and ruthlessly pragmatic in pursuit of his goals.

                Don’t you dream of whinging about Extraordinary Claims. I’ve enumerated a list of the most effective legislative agenda in modern times.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You see “whinging” where I see “asking a question”.

                Obama strikes me as surprisingly mediocre.

                He only *BARELY* passed through a bill that the Republicans were fighting for a decade and a half ago despite having a nigh-filibuster-proof Senate, an overwhelming majority in the House, and a retarded opposition.

                He’s started another war in Libya.

                The START treaty is being used as a legislative victory? For Obama? That puts him in the category of winning victories, and I’m quoting you here, “as cleverly as anyone in politics has ever fought them”?

                This strikes me as so fundamentally wrong that I’m confused.

                Seriously, dude. You remind me of the folks who sang Dubya’s praises for bringing Democracy to the Middle East.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Spare me. As with your a priori problems elsewhere, your Humpty Dumpty redefinitions of the obvious are just too ridiculous to address. I’m not here to humour your whinging and begged questions further.

                Bush43 and his manichaean Mission Accomplished was about half a victory. He destroyed what he could not replace. Obama considers the consequences of what he does, that much seems obvious.

                Serious Cat is seriously serious. This is a big nothing of a thread and you are not serious.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                While I can appreciate you talking about *ME* (my favorite topic!) rather than the stuff I’ve said, I still have to say that Obama looks a lot like Bush and your attacks on me, personally, haven’t changed that that much.

                Perhaps if you called me antisemitic? That might work. Give it a shot.Report

              • Avatar Member548 says:

                You sound like a very religious man BlaiseP.

                The most dangerous kind of religious man.

                The kind that worships other men, or the State.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                I gotta admit Jay, you’re not making very much sense for me at least. The bit about Obama = GWB, where does that fit in to the American Religion? What do either one have to do with the economy?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The bit about Obama = GWB, where does that fit in to the American Religion?

                They’re two distinct thoughts, dealing with two very distinct discussions. Tying them together would take me much longer to do than, apparently, it’s taken you.

                What do either one have to do with the economy?

                What does this question have to do with Lawrence v. Texas?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “They’re two distinct thoughts, dealing with two very distinct discussions. Tying them together would take me much longer to do than, apparently, it’s taken you.”

                Come on JB, they are in the same thread. Is there some reason why you have an aversion to stating your point directly?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                They’re making two very different points to two very different people and, indeed, are parts of two very different conversations.

                The fact that you asked what this has to do with the economy is especially baffling to me.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Well, then the answers ought to be pretty simple. Ie, Jaybird: “American Religion has nothing to do with Obama = GWB, and neither one is really about the economy.”

                You can write things that are kinda out there, like American Religion, but unless you clarify people are going to put it in a different context than what you’re intending.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m delighted that you were able to answer your own question.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Well it helps when I can restate your answer. All snark aside Jay, why do you bother writing about this kind of thing if you don’t want people to ask you about it?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I love it when people ask me about it.

                What disturbs me is when I am engaged in two different conversations with two different people on two different topics and someone asks me what in the sam hill these two things have to do with a third thing that I wasn’t even talking about.

                That tells me that they’re not particularly interested in discussing anything at all but hoping for an opportunity to write an essay of their own.

                Frankly, I was worried that my wondering about free speech issues would turn into an argument about how if I really cared about the government not sniffing sheets, I’d vote Republican and I’ve seen that movie before.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                I think you’re in the middle of an “ass you me” mistake Jay.

                The part about American religion doesn’t make sense for me Jay, either standalone or in context of this thread. That’s why I’m asking, what exactly are you getting at? If I was going to write an essay, I’d just do that.

                As far as you voting Republican, well yes you should but that’s not exactly topical here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If you’d like to discuss The American Religion, the post is right up there.

                Maybe you could quote for me the part that doesn’t make sense to you.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

      Hey, you people “lost China,” what can I say? Vote commie-dem and lose China! And, your response is what, get 52K killed in Korea and another 55K killed in Vietnam…now that’s just real clever statesmanship.
      “LBJ, LBJ how many kids did you kill today?”Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      “Nobody’s ever happy with the President they elected.”

      Wait till they figure out they’re in real danger of being written out of the conversation altogether. That’s when the real fun starts.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        History is written by the winners. The losers get to write the songs. The Progressives might not have gotten all they wanted, but I would not write them out entirely.

        When it comes to who’s gonna get written out, that’s gonna be the GOP hardliners. The GOP is composed of trembly old geezers on Zimmer frames. They’re dying. The Tea Parties bear the GOP no loyalty at all. If it hopes to survive, the GOP will be forced to eat a metric buttload of Populist Cheeze and dance while for the witless organ grinders of the Tea Parties, loudly proclaiming the virtues of that Tasty Cheeze. Chumps, all of them. Having betrayed the Conservatism of previous generations, they will become as irrelevant as their Whig ancestors, who betrayed theirs in their turn.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          “The GOP is composed of trembly old geezers on Zimmer frames. They’re dying.”

          No no. We’re the ones with real hope to offer for young adults. But my narrower point was something else: liberals haven’t yet internalized how much they are invested in Barack Obama (practically, not emotionally). Once they do, I expect we’ll see a lot of panic, and that’ll have consequences of some kind.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          If Barry and his crew survive past ’12 we’ll be a province of Chunking…the People’s Republic of …!
          Those heroic TPers will either straighten out the Neos/Rinos or your sagging and sorry ass will be out in the paddy again, this time lookin’ for food.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Here’s a few facts for your perusal. Brown people will soon outnumber White people in this country and the GOP has relentlessly annoyed them all with their Arizona fearmongering. Why do they get away with it in Arizona? Because Arizona is Bluehair Valhalla, somewhere cheap and snow free.

          GOP on campus is a joke. No young person these days has the slightest inclination to be associated with these crazy Family Values / Defense of Marriage types. Maybe a few bowtied Mormons and other Bible Thumper types still in the bony grip of their overbearing Parental Units, but they are hardly representative. Young professionals, firmly entrenched in the metro areas of the high-value Blue States do not find much spiritual solace in the preachments of the GOP.

          Now there is a segment of the population younger than 40, the Dumpies, the downwardly mobile professionals, now attending Tea Party rallies. They find the GOP agenda hugely distasteful. Lots of these folks are finding the Libertarian agenda very much to their liking.

          I’ve been running a little beer-soaked political education seminar for some Minnesota Tea Partiers, delineating the rudiments of Liberal/Conservative dialectic. They now have considerably more respect for Liberals, considerably less for Conservatives and more cognizance of how to explain themselves in less-ranty terms, for all this has been seen before in European American political history.

          The people who backed Obama projected Hope and Change onto him may have been disappointed to see reality run up against their illusions of what was possible. But don’t indulge in these little fatuous Hopey Changey illusions of your own: we’ve had years of the GOP preaching Fear and Intransigence, now more than ever. The GOP has been fearmongering for too long now for anyone to take them seriously anymore.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Bp, thanks, great stuff.
            I do think you’re a Christian; a ‘social justice’ Jesuit, and you’re a teacher of librulism! Can’t tell you how much I’d like to be in that beer soddened group!
            You know I’m starting to think the cause of your disorder isn’t directly involved with the Hegelian notion of ‘alienation,’ simply because you’re such a gregarious fellow. Rather, there’s got to be a secondary symptom that I’ve not stumbled upon, or perhaps missed. As you say, I should read your rhetorically beautiful diatribes a little more slowly. However, I think your derailment has to do with what EV/Cicero referred to as a ‘indulgence of the passions’, a self/existential-justification of something or other. However, I’m having a difficult time associating that with seems your inclination to participate in the ‘apostrophe’, the turning away from one’s own humanity. Or maybe it’s just a terrible pride?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Physician, heal thyself, thou glib purveyor of dodgy psychobabble and alchemical effrontery. Disordered may be my thoughts but you are not the man to analyze them.

              Your Voegelin indulges in his own indulgence of the passions, all this symbolic swanning about and torchlit mystery pageants marching through the cobblestone streets of life’s dark vale.

              Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. Bidden or unbidden, God is present. Jung had it written on his tomb. Yes, I have turned away from my own humanity. I don’t enjoy being what passes for a religious human being anymore, it’s a lasting embarrassment, all these noetic monkeyshines and credulity. The less of me, the better, I say.

              At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit
              Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,
              Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
              Where blood-begotten spirits come
              And all complexities of fury leave,
              Dying into a dance,
              An agony of trance,
              An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                What worries me is that I understand what both these guys are saying.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Lost some coffee there. Tom, you’re turning into a finely aged wine.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I wish I did. The two of em together often make me feel dim.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t understand any of it, thought the Latin is a bit clearer than the rest.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                If they made a Voeglin to English dictionary, I might be able to follow Bob.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Just watch out for Voeglin poetry.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                “Immanence… is futile!”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Voegelin for Dummies:

                Prerequisites: Learn German: Voegelin does not translate well. Also helps to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the works of Francis Bacon. Voegelin will remain a complete mystery until you have worked out the nature of Bacon’s Idols.

                Still with me? To simplify matters a very great deal, Voegelin’s God is made manifest through a simple acceptance of our own insufficiency of understanding: all metaphors fail, perception is rooted in our semiotic reductions. The wise man points at the moon and the fool looks at his finger: Voegelin demands we un-confuse the symbol from what it represents and consider the symbol anew as a way-of-perceiving.

                To continue Voegelin’s continuation of the attack on Bacon’s Idols, he would say the Philosophical Fool takes careful notes of each philosopher pointing at the moon, pointing out the differences in the explanations, writing interesting but ultimately fruitless papers on Kant’s Finger or Leibniz’s Finger or Spinoza’s Finger and the putative differences between them, never actually looking at the moon for himself.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                This is what Cheeks has been rambling about?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s lots more to it, but yeah, that’s the short version. Voegelin is more or less a revenant Roger Bacon.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Uh, Francis Bacon.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                mb: modernity has collapsed, by and large, into a morass of alienated individuals we might identify as ideological thinkers. We have our share here at the League. These ideological thinkers project a grotesque reality that they believe to be the truth and right now they dominate the culture.
                Practically alone, you and I, and a few others continue on, like Eli, to fight the good fight, to bring to those that need it, the truth of stuff.
                That’s the way the philosophy of history has revealed itself: society collapses into disorder, then into disintegration, then reality is misconceived (HELLO!) but there is always a remnent that God allows.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                I am your friend.Report

  9. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    That was a big long post just to repeat the tired old idea that Democrats never get what they want because they’re too nice.Report

    • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

      Mine or Kohn’s? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not what I wrote…

      Also wasn’t especially long once you get rid of the quotes…

      dot dot dotReport

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Both.

        You write: “[T]he Republican party is far, far more ideological and, yes, radical than the Democrats. Democrats nowadays — and especially in the Obama era — are basically mild-mannered, technocratic pragmatists who just want to tweak our systems wherever necessary so as to improve the efficiency of what they fundamentally believe to be a sound model. Republicans tend to be the ones throwing around transformative rhetoric — just because it’s reactionary doesn’t make it conservative.”Report

  10. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    “Starve our economy of public capital?”

    Whatever happened to the simple declarative sentence? On the left, hyperbole is the new “nuance.”Report

  11. Avatar Elia Isquire says:

    OK so I’m back. Just visited Amnesty International’s NYC office for the first time — fancy digs. Anyway, I wasn’t even thinking of Mooslems when I wrote this post, but indeed that’s a kind of weird thing to not do. Although, in my defense, Kohn doesn’t go there, either. In general I’m a subscriber to the American Religion Jaybird delineated earlier and think everyone should just STFU and leave everyone else alone when it comes to things like religion and self-expression. I mean, the Ayatollah didn’t even read the damn book, so all of those liberals who were bending over backwards to prove how “sensitive” they were just look like fools. I’m a human rights major, so the amount of time I’ve spent writing/reading and debating with people of this issue is about 400x more than I feel it deserves, but I think multiculturalism is fine until it bleeds into moral relativism; and yes I’m willing to admit to being a western chauvinist in so far as that I believe any cultural custom that is undergirded by superstition and misogyny can go suck a lemon.

    This is an all-over-the-place post — sorry.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke says:

      I’m still marveling over “human rights major.”

      Our own BlaiseP argues that rights are only political (“conventional”), not innate (pre-political, natural [“human?”]), and he is not alone in this argument. Nor is it self-evident he is wrong.

      Therefore, we have a major in something that that only theoretically exists. And also theoretically does not. 😉

      [In between all the noise, we had a decent critical discussion on the subject here recently.]

      http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/apr/04/kolata-12-holds-human-rights-conference-pushes/

      Still, other experts contested the idea that human rights could constitute its own discipline. Samuel Moyn, a history professor at Columbia, said that human rights lacks a unique methodology to distinguish itself as a field.

      “Human rights is not a discipline and should not become one,” Moyn said. “I think it’s a site on which many disciplines have converged, applying their own specific methods of inquiry but not yet coalescing into something that provides its own new methods of inquiry.”

      Moyn said that the study of human rights should be an interdisciplinary endeavor, adding that students who choose the new human rights major at Columbia will need to acquire a solid background in a traditional discipline in addition to studying human rights.

      While human rights are often associated with advocacy and service work, many scholars at the conference said that if human rights are to be taught in a university setting, they must be approached critically. Thomas Keenan, who directs the Human Rights Project at Bard, said he tries to help his students question their concept of human rights and not only celebrate the good deeds that can be done in its name.

      “When you put something like human rights — an extremely powerful moral and political idea, which many times seeks acquiescence or blind obedience — into an academic institution, there are real risks,” Keenan said. “[There are] risks that the teaching ends up being either quasi-theological or conversion-oriented, or that it simply has the effect of reaffirming a student and faculty’s sense that they’re doing good.”Report

      • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

        It’s as if you think a human rights program isn’t entirely devoted to this very question.Report

        • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

          Oops — hadn’t read your quoted section before commenting. Thomas Keenan oversaw my undergrad thesis.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Elia, did/do you know Professor Berkowitz at Bard?Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Elia, “rights” is my own auto-didactic “major.” 😉

            Kennan’s prudence is appreciated, but I’m more with Moyn on the structural problem. “Human rights” is not a discipline, but a subtopic of philosophy. If not theology*. Although I’m an “all men are created equal” kinda guy, I’m not sure it holds without certain metaphysical presumptions.

            [If you have a refutation of Peter Singer, BTW, I’m all ears. I’ve been blegging for one for years.]

            ___________

            *Or history.Report

            • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

              You know we never did talk much about Singer so I unfortunately can’t point you towards anything that’s particularly useful in refuting him. My general belief is that if one digs underneath the surface of HR — not even very far — they’ll find a lot of air and not much support. I think Arendt (really Burke since she’s co-signing, more or less) was right in her criticism of it having to rest on *something* beyond humanity’s existence in and of itself. But in terms of my college work I was always more drawn to the more prosaic, political aspect rather than the philosophical one (probably because I found the philosophical answer to be relatively unsettling or at best unanswerable).Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Well again, Ilya, it’s a subset of history, not its own thing, by your own delineation, and Moyn’s point holds.

                As a reader of things, I’d find an article by historian or political philosopher Dr. Elya Isquire more intriguing than from PhD in human rights EI, since I would expect a bias and a formulaic set of arguments and conclusions.

                Yes, I would be prejudiced against an expected bias whether it exists or not, the snake eats its tail. But to me at least, there’s a red flag here no different than “homeless activist” or “human rights advocate” or any description that begs its own question.

                I’ve been doing a bit of work on what an Islamic democracy might look like, one that has the consent of its governed, overwhelmingly majority-Muslim. Egypt has to form one; Western-model Turkey appears to be backsliding.

                http://www.ijtihad.org/debate.htm

                Daniel Pipes debates Dr. Muqtedar Khan, putatively a moderate Muslim political philosopher. A political scientist or philosopher or historian might be able to hang with Dr. Kahn’s “Islamized” republicanism/democracy.

                But “human rights?” I dunno…

                [I asked about Peter Singer because he presents an idiosyncratic but rational redefinition of “human” as far as “rights” goes. Oy.]Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                Well it’s a joint major — human rights/political studies (and I focused on theory; not much one for making graphs).

                Oddly enough, and with all the usual caveats you’d expect from a libtard, I’d put myself more on Pipes’ side. I’m pretty chauvinistic when it comes to these issues and don’t see the majority’s opinion on this stuff to be the final word…at all.

                But I also don’t think you can solve these questions with clusterbombs! So I think Danny and I would part ways pretty early on during the global HR jihad…Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Ilya, I’m an intolerant bigoted conservative [but I repeat myself], and Khan seems more grounded in reality and history.

                Pipes is correct that Khan’s more “enlightened” Islam exists mostly between the ears of Westernized Muslims like Dr. Kahn, not normatively. Still, Khan strives to keep the Islam in Islam, something Westerners—esp fully secular ones—don’t appreciate. Jerusalem isn’t going to become Athens, much less Mecca becoming Amsterdam.

                As for certain presuppositions and attitudes of what is “self-evident” that might accompany your [1/2 of a double] major, it does appear to me that Dr. Kennan’s caution is perhaps not enough to prevent them from taking hold.Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                The way I feel is that one person’s “modern” X (Islam is the most talked about but you could also say China or African nationalism, etc.) is another person’s “western decadence” or the like. I sometimes think Fukuyama was right in some respects and with wealth and stability every country slow meanders towards a civil society undergirded by something we’d broadly call western values, and those are the moments when I’d accept being called a cultural imperialist/chauvinist or whatever.

                And as to the HR program, I’d say your concerns are quite reasonable. Just in my experience, that never happened, but it was very dependent upon the profs. The department happens to have a bunch of profs with a similar mindset to Keenan’s — skeptical, probing — but if he were to leave and a more self-congratulatory person were to replace him? It could easily become a protracted self-love-in.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Screw Fukuyama, Elia. Amsterdam will become Mecca sooner than vice-versa.

                What “human rights” might mean in a majority-Muslim context is far more important than 1000-yr theorizing.

                And since you’ve generously lent me your ear to bend, Elia, this is what pisses me off about the academy as presently constituted, a “human rights” curriculum that remains willfully ignorant of reality.

                Religion isn’t going anywhere, and bleaching out man’s religions of all content as if one size fits all is Fukuyama’s arrogance, and Strauss and Kojeve’s as well.

                African nationalism or Chinese Confucianism/ancestor worship make no claim to universality, as Islam, Christianity, and indeed secular humanism do. They are not, may we say, virulent.

                Thx for a spirited and enlightening exchange, sir. This is my “major” too.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Elia, do you enjoy reading in the philosophy of history?Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                The little I have, yes; but I have to confess that I’ve never actually *read* any Foucault (besides the opening three chapters or so of Discipline and Punish) so I don’t think I can really say I’m familiar with the niche.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Your argument would improve if you actually understood what Nihilism meant and used the word correctly, Elia. Words do mean things, you know. In summary, most of this article was ill-considered flame bait. I’d recommend you read Mikhail Bakunin before you ever use the word Nihilist again.Report

          • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

            It’s actually not my argument; but as I’m relatively new here I do appreciate it when the more unpleasant commenters reveal themselves as such. So thanks!Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Unpleasant is as unpleasant does, you strident little sophos-moros. The modern Liberal does not conform to your Straw Man interpretation thereof. Now perhaps you’ll inform me how Nihilism fits into your argument, other than a pejorative you obviously do not understand.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                …I love it when you get like this!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                At any rate, Bob, I grow increasingly irked by the ninnies who reduce the Liberal to a parody. It’s high time they met up with a working instance of one, that their illusions may be dispelled forthwith. As Robertson Davies so aptly put it:

                I am increasingly reminded of Oedipus. Do you not recall that in that tragic history, Oedipus met a Sphinx? The Sphinx spoke in riddles — very terrible riddles, for those who could not guess them died. But Oedipus guessed the riddle, and the chagrin of the Sphinx was so great that it destroyed itself. I am but a poor shadow of Oedipus, I fear, and you, Mr. Yarrow, but a puny kitten of a Sphinx. But you are, like many another Sphinx of our modern world, an under-educated, brassy young pup, who thinks that gall can take the place of the authority of wisdom, and that a professional lingo can disguise his lack of thought. You aspire to be a Sphinx, without first putting yourself to the labour of acquiring a secret. Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                I don’t consider them to be tolerant to the point of, in deed if not in word, believing all ethical system to be false. I clearly did not adequately make my position known in the post — but then again I wasn’t of the mind that the point of every post must be to take sides.

                I think you’ve rather obviously decided I’m a member of some political tribe you’ve obviously got issues with, which is unfortunate I suppose, since I’d imagine that when you’re not trying to browbeat any and all with you’ve determined to be insufficiently edumacated, you might have something interesting to say.

                So if you want to actually talk about something, that’s cool, but otherwise life’s too short and I’m too poor to spend all my time feeding trolls.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                I’d recommend you read Alfred Kinsey before you ever use the words “my position” again!Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                Haha! I could probably also do with a proof-reading before hitting Submit…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It is an existential problem, that much is true, yet it little matters what you may privately believe, here’s what I’m working with, the material which guides me to my conclusions:

                Back then, Obama wasn’t really shooting for compromise so much as utter capitulation — but you gotta start somewhere, right?

                That was not a starting point, it was an ending. That sentence was a cheap shot, a continuation from the earlier assertion wherein the Democrats seemingly lack all conviction.

                You still have not knitted in this troublesome adjective Nihilistic to your debate. As I have pointed out and you continue to dance around the issue, Nihilism actually means something and you have said Liberals are nihilistically tolerant without actually explicating how this tolerance exhibit any nihilistic tendencies or qualities, and it is at that point where I have called you out.Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                Capitulation from his enemies, the skinheads!

                This is my fault for not writing more clearly. Sorry.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Thank you. Much clearer now. I still don’t see the tie-out to nihilism, but at least I now see that last para in context.

                Political campaigns are much akin to courtship. It all starts in the back of a restaurant, hearts and flowers and a bottle of wine. Nine months later, it’s a lot of bright lights and screaming and blood on the floor at two in the morning, when the baby is born and then it’s diapers and feeding for the next two years. The reality never matches the rhetoric, the first blush of romance never lasts, but something better emerges from the quotidian struggles: the love that understands who the beloved really is and goes on loving them anyway.Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                Oh and as to “nihilism”: anything and everything I know about this school of thought comes first and foremost not from Bakhunin or Nietzsche but rather Lebowski and, to a lesser degree, Sobchak. I think Sobchak in particular got to the heart of its problems most eloquently.

                In all seriousness, feeling that I knew what the word meant — and now double-checking by consulting a dictionary — I’d still say that the argument (again *with which I do not agree*) that liberals are so tolerant as to accept intolerance and thus negate their supposed belief in it and thus believe in nuffing could stand on its own two feet. At least long enough to be batted down.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Accept my apology: as above, I had not connected the joke with the paragraph. The misunderstanding is all mine.Report

              • Avatar Elia Isquire says:

                To BP: No problem. It’s really my “job” as the OP to be clear.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Which rather goes to my point: the Dude may abide but don’t trust Hollywood for your philosophical terminology. You’ll end up with computer screens without cursors and people like me havin’ a whole lotta trouble with the Suspension of Disbelief I can so easily maintain with a box of popcorn in the dark, less easily when Rhetorical Questions and Contumacious Adjectives appear in the title bar of my browser.Report

  12. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    I see a very interesting sea change.

    Traditionally, the younger folk in the country demographically skew to the left, and as they age and get kids and real property and start thinking about retirement, they slowly migrate over to the rightish. They also start voting more regularly. Generally, the size of the first group has outnumbered the size of the second, but the second is far more active and thus we achieve a political steady-state (more or less), orbiting the middle with varying degrees.

    These people represent the vast majority of the U.S. populace. (Us guys and gals here on this blog? We’re freakazoids, we actually care about politics above and apart from the normal human inclinations. Honestly, people, we’re crazy abnormal.)

    Now we have a demographic distribution problem. Because the older people are now rising in number – the baby boom is getting older, and they’re living longer- skewing the distribution away from the younger folk.

    They’re also increasingly less prepared for retirement, increasingly damaged in their ability to extend their effective worklifespan, and going to become more and more dependent on the entitlement programs that when they were in their 40s irritated them enough to start them on their swing to the right in the first place.

    How is this going to work out? The Rights and the Lefts both see advantages for both their mid- and long-term prospects. I see cataclysm, myself. We’re heading for an atmospheric inversion, where the post-60 crowd is going to be fighting to retain the entitlements that the under-35 crowd (they being more and more convinced that said entitlements aren’t going to be around for them in another 50) are going to start turning more and more against.

    So we’ll wind up with an increasingly libertarian youth, who want social freedom and economic freedom, and a… socially conservative aging population who really wants the welfare state to continue.

    Neither of those two animals has any sort of real representation in today’s political dynamic. I’m fascinated to see how that’s going to turn out, myself.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      So the Democrats will be bowing under increasing pressure to accept more free market stuff, free trade stuff and social liberal stuff aka the history of the party since 94 in essence hopefully culminating at some point in a development of a Liberaltarian constituency in the party.
      The GOP meanwhile will have an identity crisis with their intellectual heft aimed at free market and free trade principles but their voting blocs coming from either illiberal social voters or elderly blocs with vested interest in the entitlement programs.
      That sounds like a good summary of the last decade if you set aside the 9/11 disruption we suffered from those Arabic goat screwers.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        > That sounds like a good summary of the last decade

        The last decade is the start. We’ve got ~30 years to go on this swing, I think. It will take about that long for us to smooth out the hump of the baby boomer generation. From a longitudinal standpoint, what we’re looking at here is probably one of the last great demographic extinction events (unless immigration policy ever undergoes real reform, in which case we might create a new one).

        I don’t think the GOP’s identity crisis can last another 5 years, let alone 30. My prediction: they’re going to lose to Obama in the next election, probably lose a lot of the ground they gained in the last one, and they’re going to be flummoxed trying to figure out what they did wrong. One obvious answer is, “We didn’t do *enough* to prove our small government bona-fides,” which would lead them to attack the entitlement programs that their core constituency relies on all the more with even more zeal. They’re taking the Catholic Church approach to losing members: we’re losing members because we’re not what we’re supposed to be, so let’s close ranks more and more and people will flock to us because we’re true to our values. Yeah, that works.

        The Democrats, of course, are going to have the flip side problem: more and more, young folks are turned off by the Democratic party because the young folks don’t believe those entitlement programs are going to last, and the young folks look at the political left and see that when it comes to personal freedoms the Democrats are nearly as hypocritical as the Republicans in their eyes. Plus, young folk are idealists, but they expect shit to get done, and the Democrats don’t deliver on the implicit promise of their ideals. Blaise points at Obama’s accomplishments… but what I see *through the lens of the 25-year-old liberal*, is a list of massive failures where the guy didn’t get anywhere near enough, and they’ve tacked on another list of failures where he didn’t even get to first base. Guantanamo. The Patriot Act. DOMA. Financial reform. The EPA – Jesus Christ, the Administration is the *bad guy* right now as far as the environmental community is concerned. Democrats are looking at the implosion of the GOP and laughing their asses off at what they see as the ridiculous nature of the party, but they’re seemingly painfully unaware that they’re losing their grip, too.

        This could *easily* get worse in the next 10 years. In fact, I’d almost guarantee that it will. Of course, I’m not a 25-year old liberal and ten years from now I certainly won’t be either a 25-year-old liberal or a 35-year old one, so I could totally be wrong.

        The Boomers are aging, though. The pull of conflicting desires means the entire plus-50 demographic is losing their political identity. *Both* parties aren’t meeting their core needs and values, because those Boomers’ values and needs are wildly disparate and contradictory.

        Somebody’s going to whore themselves out for that vote (unless the Boomers themselves wake up and realize that they can’t have small government and low crime and Medicare). All bets are off as to which party it is.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          What *does* need to happen is for people to stop saying “third party? Oh, pish, that’ll never work“.

          If you’re suggesting Ralph Nader as proof that third parties can’t be viable in American politics, that’s like looking at the 1980’s Indians and concluding that Cleveland can never have a decent baseball team.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

            I like the idea of more than two parties. I’m not convinced that it can work without changes in the way our electoral process works.

            It’s already a norm of political discourse: I don’t like this candidate, but I don’t like that candidate more and one of these two will be the winner.

            The only way for that dynamic to change is for the perception to change along with the reality. Graduated ranking of votes is one option. I like A a lot, I like B somewhat less, I find C to be moderately intolerable and I’ll move out of the country if D gets elected.

            Those are tricky systems to devise, but it’s been done.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Or, maybe, what needs to happen is for a third-party candidate to present themselves as an actual alternative. If third-party candidates insist on portraying themselves as angry radicals who’re going to burn the village in order to save it, then it’s hardly surprising that they don’t get many votes. (see my earlier comment about Nader.)

              “Graduated ranking of votes is one option. I like A a lot, I like B somewhat less…”

              …then why aren’t you voting for A?

              Maybe the solution isn’t so much a new voting system as it is candidates who depend less on team-jersey voting blocs, and voters who are less willing to go into the booth with the attitude that they’re voting straight-ticket Democrats/Republicans because they’re nicer/smarter.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > …then why aren’t you voting for A?

                Because rational political calculus says A can’t win.

                In a given race, maybe the two viable candidates are B and A. Maybe they’re C and A. Maybe they’re D and B. Maybe they’re C and D.

                It’s plenty easy to show that given our two-party system, you can elect someone that a majority don’t even *like*.

                > Maybe the solution isn’t so much a new
                > voting system as it is candidates who
                > depend less on team-jersey voting blocs

                That’s a natural consequence of winner-take-all single vote voting mechanism.

                Yeah, I get what you’re saying about Nader and burning down the village, but it’s not as simple as saying, “We need viable third-party candidates and then we can have a third party”. We don’t *have* viable third-party candidates because the system prevents people from voting for preferences over practicals.

                If people could actually vote preferences, you’d be more likely to get someone you find at least okay. It would also seriously harm the “voting by bloc” behavior.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “> …then why aren’t you voting for A?

                Because rational political calculus says A can’t win. ”

                What’s that got to do with anything? If you think A is the best candidate, then you vote for A. If A has no chance of winning, then a “preference-based vote” isn’t going to change that.

                Now, you can say that there’s too much emphasis on “winner takes all, therefore the winner should act as thought they received 100% of the popular vote”. A win by 51% over 49% is hardly a popular mandate in support of your philosophy.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > What’s that got to do with anything?

                Everything.

                > If you think A is the best candidate,
                > then you vote for A.

                If there are two agents in an election that have a chance of winning, and one is “B” (who I find marginally okay) and the other is “D” (who I detest), if I vote for A and D wins by a vote I just screwed my own interests.

                > If A has no chance of winning, then
                > a “preference-based vote” isn’t going
                > to change that.

                Absolutely it is. You need to read up on electoral mechanisms. Our method of counting a vote isn’t the only one out there, and it’s unarguably not the most fair (although it’s certainly closer than what they have in Iran).

                If I can vote on a preference scale, I can still vote for A as my primary choice, and B as my secondary choice. If A has no chance of winning, my vote for B is weighted but it still counts.

                Since politicians all respond to votes like dogs to treats, B winning is not only better than D, for my self interest… but also for the representative.

                The fact that B knows that many of their supporters voted for A as well, perhaps not as many as voted for C, tells B that they ought to consider this in determining the will of their constituents. If they’re actually interested in reflecting the will of their constituents.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “The fact that B knows that many of their supporters voted for A as well…”

                …or perhaps B would note that a large part of the public voted for A, and take that into account when formulating policy, instead of assuming “I had the most votes, therefore everyone agrees with me”.

                Which is what I already said.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Yes, and that’s a point upon which we agree.

                However, you can see that voting for “A” (Nader) when it results in me having “D” (Bush) over “B” (Gore) is a bad outcome for me (if I’m a FL liberal).

                No?Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      “Traditionally, the younger folk in the country demographically skew to the left, and as they age and get kids and real property and start thinking about retirement, they slowly migrate over to the rightish.”

      This has been the case for a long time, but I think we’re in the middle of major changes wrt the meaning of youth, ultimately their benefit.

      Most young Americans grow up under authority figures where there is substantial potential for resentment: teachers, the cops, parents. Therefore most of their political participation tends to be a Left-style rejection of authority. It’s not too hard to see some indigent on death row as a victim writ large of the same cops who wrote you a parking ticket or busted you for weed.

      But I think we’re in the middle of finding out that young people can be very effective and surprisingly young ages (think of the NFL or NBA age range). In order to do accomplish really big things that they’re capable of, they’re going to need civilization and the bourgeois economy to work, and Team Blue is putting those things in real jeopardy.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        Team Blue may or may not be putting them in jeopardy, but I’ll absolutely agree that *they* are starting to think that Team Blue is putting them in jeopardy.

        The trick is, I don’t think the classic Right can necessarily capture them right now because they’re still skewing left (much farther left than most Right people would be comfortable) socially. They think gay marriage is a done deal. They want ready access to contraceptives. They largely support abortion.

        I’m not sure where they’re going to wind up. I don’t think the current emphasis of either Team Blue or Team Red particularly well adjusts to either of the blocs that drive American politics.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          “The trick is, I don’t think the classic Right can necessarily capture them right now because they’re still skewing left (much farther left than most Right people would be comfortable) socially. They think gay marriage is a done deal. They want ready access to contraceptives. They largely support abortion.”

          That’s true, but this is what I meant by the rejection of authority thing. It makes sense, young people have got so much more going on than that if they choose. (And from what I can see they are, though it hasn’t filtered through to the political culture and prob won’t for a while). Nonetheless, it’s a very important point for me at least that Team Red is an agenda for the young, even if it doesn’t look that way now.Report