The dangers and the promise of a strong central state

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

90 Responses

  1. NoPublic says:

    You must be joking.  Big Daddy needs are much more a Conservative/Republican thing than a Liberal/Democratic thing.  Liberals want a thought leader.  A beacon.  An aspiration.  They don’t want a ruler.  That’s all on the other side of the aisle.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to NoPublic says:

      Huh? I said that liberals want a strong president. Because they want a strong federal government. Your response is bordering on incoherent.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I think that’s mostly true, but I also believe a lot of liberals would be perfectly find with a somewhat weak President if say, Bernie Sanders was Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi was Speaker again.Report

        • Would they, though?  One thing that I think you overlook is that the regulatory state requires a strong Executive through the delegation of substantial portions of Congressional power.Report

          • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            To a certain extent, yes. But, a lot of those levers of Executive power are being ran by appointees, not the President himself. So, as long as the President made the right appointments and had a friendly Congress, he/she could get away with not exercising much Executive Power himself in domestic policy. Foreign policy’s a bit more of a problem, but one could say a President uninterested in increasing executive power might be the best possible President when it comes to civil liberties and such.Report

            • Just John in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              Not necessarily so easy to say when a President is strong or weak, and then there’s the distinction between a strong President and a strong Executive.  G.W. Bush was arguably a weak president in terms of his ability/inclination to articulate and/or advance agendae but his presidency clearly saw a dramatic increase in the power of the Executive branch, apparently unbeknownst to him in large measure and accomplished by staff and appointees and his Vice President.Report

            • Those appointees are part and parcel of the Executive. Erik isn’t talking about the dangers of a strong President; he’s talking about the dangers of a strong Executive.

              By delegating a substantial chunk of its power to the Executive within the regulatory state, Congress in effect grants the Executive the power needed to run amok on civil liberties, both on foreign policy and on domestic policy.  That this power is exercised more directly by appointees should be more troubling, not less, as those appointees are much less directly accountable for their decisionmaking.Report

              • Additionally, and to incorporate North’s comments below, the creation of a strong Executive through mass delegation of power not only provides the Executive with the opportunity for civil liberties abuses, it in fact provides the Executive with the incentive for it.  An Executive that has the power to unilaterally exercise power in just about any arena is an Executive that can be blamed or rewarded for anything and everything.  If the Executive exercises its power for civil liberties abuses to act upon a problem (real or imagined), there will be little backlash against it because few will be directly affected by the abuses, and if the problem is stopped by the abuse, then the Executive will indeed receive tremendous rewards from the populous; if it does not exercise the full extent of either its legal or de facto power to act upon a problem (real or imagined), and something bad happens, the Executive will bear the full fury of the populace and Congress, regardless of the situation.

                To use North’s terminology, by giving the Executive the de facto (but not necessarily legal) power to CYA, you also give it a huge incentive to use that de facto (but not necessarily legal) power to CYA.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Let’s note for the record that, in the case of Arizona 1070 at least, you endorsed the President’s supra-statutory policy and regulatory initiatives as a judicially actionable interest.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

                Please provide a quote or a cite.  I certainly had/have my share of objections to Arizona’s law, especially as it was originally written (which I thought was clearly unconstitutional on 4th/14th Amendment grounds, though the final bill got rid of the most offensive provision).  But on the federal preemption part of it, I vaguely remember being pretty ambivalent on the whole.  Even if I wasn’t, though, I don’t see how the Obama Administration’s arguments on that issue amounted to an expansion of Executive Power.  That the President has the prerogative to choose enforcement priorities within the Executive Branch is pretty obvious and well-established, as is the fact that enforcement of existing laws falls within the Executive Branch (and indeed entirely within the Executive Branch).  Moreover, that federal immigration law preempts any state laws on immigration is more than a little well-established.  There was no rulemaking at issue there, and no allegations that the Executive Branch was exceeding its authority – if anything, the allegation from Arizona’s proponents was the opposite: that the Executive Branch was exercising insufficient authority within the immigration arena.

                I fail to see how expansion of Executive Power was even relevant there, except to the extent that Arizona’s proponents wanted to see Executive Power over immigration increased.  Had an issue in the case been “does the Executive branch have any authority over immigration, or at least a limited amount of authority,” then I’d have been all over it.  But that wasn’t the issue – instead the issue was, in effect, whether another governing body could exercise power if the Executive failed to exercise its power to the fullest extent of its abilities.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                “That the President has the prerogative to choose enforcement priorities within the Executive Branch is pretty obvious and well-established,…”

                Right, but not as a actionable interest above state statutes. In other words, we’ve got a bunch of federal laws, some of which we intend to enforce and some we intend to ignore. These particular federal laws we intend to ignore, but this Arizona law makes that inconvenient. In fact, AFAIK the Arizona 1070 law is the only time that argument has ever been litigated.

                I’ll look into the wayback machine for the site.Report

              • That seems to confirm my recollection of ambivalence, frankly, as well as my point above that there’s no issue of expansion of executive power here.  I thought the Article II argument was interesting and more likely to succeed than the Article I argument, but “interesting” from me on legal questions should never, ever, be interpreted as endorsement of one position or the other.  Additionally, never mistake my legal analyses as to likelihood of an argument’s success as endorsements of one position or another.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Could you elaborate on that first part again, that there’s no issue of executive power in this Article II business? It seem pretty clear to me.

                There’s a federal law (passed by Congress of course) that the executive doesn’t want to enforce. Arizona passes a mirror law. The Obama DOJ argues that its executive intent to not enforce the federal law overrides the state mirror statute. AFAIK nobody had ever tried that line of litigation before, meaning the DOJ’s interpretation of executive is expansive and unprecedented.

                Therefore as advocates of limited executive power we should repudiate the Obama Administration’s actions in this case.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                What happened to that “nation of laws, not men” thing?

                “That the President has the prerogative to choose enforcement priorities within the Executive Branch is pretty obvious and well-established,…”Report

              • You are mischaracterizing the argument, first of all – they’re not saying anything close to  “our executive intent to not enforce the federal law overrides the state mirror statute.”  They were saying instead that “this state mirror statute impinges on the Executive’s inherent power to set enforcement priorities.”  That the Executive has the power to set its enforcement priorities is blindingly obvious, and something that not even the staunchest advocate of a government with limited powers can really question or object to, at least not as long as we live in a world where the Executive is responsible for enforcing far more laws than it could ever hope.

                That this does not appear to have been litigated in this manner before is also unsurprising – I can’t think of a situation where a state previously passed a statute that would inherently create a burden on enforcement prioritization.

                Last but not least, the general principle about the Executive’s right to set enforcement priorities has, IIRC, been litigated substantially before, usually with the federal government as a defendant.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                A government of laws and not of men?    A fine concept, in principle.   This may explain why the GOP has refused to appoint any of Obama’s judicial nominees.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                “They were saying instead that “this state mirror statute impinges on the Executive’s inherent power to set enforcement priorities.””

                Forgive me for being dense Mark, but could you elaborate on this because I’m not seeing it? Ie, that this business of the federal Executive’s authority to manage enforcement priorities means that it has no burden of equanimity among the Executive’s interpretation of everything that’s in the US Code.

                The Arizona mirror law does not affect that in any way. It could be that this law creates facts on the ground that make the Executive’s interpretations less logically, legally, morally or politically credible. Nonetheless the Executive can still hold to those interpretations if it chooses. Right?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                No, it doesn’t, Blaise.  It’s tangential at best.

                MarkT has an interesting argument here:

                I can’t think of a situation where a state previously passed a statute that would inherently create a burden on enforcement prioritization.

                Can a state oblige the federal government to do anything about anything?  Can’t think of an issue or precedent here, perhaps someone can.  Can’t think of where the Constitution demands such a thing, the irony being it was structured to enumerate and limit federal power, not make demands of it except


                Article IV Section 4.

                The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

                Invasion.  Domestic violence.  Well.  One could say that…

                But even if Arizona is arguing via this, it doesn’t seem to bring the bill itself home safely.



              • BlaiseP in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Tangential?   Bouncing a rock off someone’s head is also tangential.   No judges, no judgment.   End of story.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                “But even if Arizona is arguing via this, it doesn’t seem to bring the bill itself home safely.”

                I’m glad you wrote this, because I think we can clarify a couple things that make the abuse of Executive power angle a bit clearer.

                That’s to say, it seems to me to be impossible for the feds to make a legitimate facial challenge on this Executive prioritization theory. That is, that there’s no way that the feds can know how the mirror law affects federal enforcement priorities until the law is actually in force and some branch of Arizona law enforcement takes some actions as a consequence of it.

                And strongly related to that, AFAIK, the feds never spell out exactly how this conflict with enforcement priorities actually happens. Because to do that, the feds would actually have to straightforwardly state what their enforcement priority regime is, which they don’t do. They only argue that 1070 is “about” immigration, and that they have enforcement priorities in that “area”.

                Therefore, the Obama DOJ not only argues that it has a judiciously actionable interest in its enforcement priorities, it has such an interest without ever having to go on record of what those priorities are. Certainly Mark as a lawyer can appreciate the difficulty of a prospective defendant having to obey all trillion pages of the US Code. Now he’s subject to the Administration’s unwritten enforcement priorities as well.

                Yes, this clearly does seem to me to be an abuse of executive power, and one that we should hope to be able to overturn because of its reach and novelty.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Well, Mr. Koz, this seems a viable counterargument:

                …there’s no way that the feds can know how the mirror law affects federal enforcement priorities until the law is actually in force and some branch of Arizona law enforcement takes some actions as a consequence of it.

                And strongly related to that, AFAIK, the feds never spell out exactly how this conflict with enforcement priorities actually happens. 

                I’m not up on this one, so I feel comfortable listening to both sides. Still, it seems to me that even turning over or depositing illegals on the federal doorstep for adjudication creates some sort of burden that states may not constitutionally be able to impose.Report

      • NoPublic in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Perhaps I conflated “Strong President” with “Strong Executive” or even “Unitary Executive”.  Damn knee gives me trouble sometimes.Report

  2. James Hanley says:

    I have a long(ish) piece up at Forbes asking liberals to take the civil liberties record of Barack Obama more seriously

    Do any liberals read Forbes?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to James Hanley says:

      Well I think a few read my blog anyways…Report

    • b-psycho in reply to James Hanley says:

      Not sure how it would translate to the dead tree version, but I vaguely recall a survey showing that liberals read right-winger sites way more than right-wingers read liberal ones.Report

      • Mike in reply to b-psycho says:

        That’s rather normal.

        “Liberals”, by which Conservatives mean “anyone who doesn’t think exactly like us”, cover most of the center and are actually possessed of enough brainpower to analyze the arguments (such as they are) of the other side.

        “Conservatives”, on the other hand, sit quite comfortably in the Rush/Beck/Hannity/Fox circle-jerk (aka the Echo Chamber) reminding each other about how “those evil librul sozialists are gonna terk away ur gunz an ur jerbz.”

        And don’t forget this week’s “side dish” from the echo chamber, most ably demonstrated by Rush when he instructed his listeners that the name of one of Herman Cain’s accusers was to be pronounced “Buy-A-Lick, As In [Slurping Sound] Buy-A-Lick.” But don’t worry, because sexual harassment NEVER happens, and even if it does it’s not NEARLY as often as “the feminazis” claim, and even if it did what Herman Cain did “technically” wasn’t sexual harassment because he did it to someone applying for a job rather than an actual employee…

        Ugh. I just threw up in my mouth trying to imagine the sort of retard that listens to, and agrees with, this absolutely bilious nonsense.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to James Hanley says:

      I read Erik’s blog and Alex Knapp’s. Does that count?

      Of course, I’m pretty far from the list of liberals who needs convincing about how awful Obama’s civil liberties record is.Report

  3. Mr. Kain, I must say that I think you’ve been on a roll of late, your venture into wine criticism aside.Report

  4. Ethan Gach says:

    What does a “strong” federal government mean?

    How much strength does it take to collect payroll taxes and deliver social welfare programs?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      Not much, I’d argue. I think you can have a strong federal government without violating basic civil liberties. But I can see how the two might come in the same package, especially given the way our political system works.Report

  5. Ethan Gach says:

    I should add Erik, that while I’m skeptical of your behind the scenes look at the liberal psyche, I’m completely unboard with dispelling the myth that Obama has been anything other than an utter failure.

    Of course failure doesn’t quite capture it all, since most of the atrocities to occur under his presidency occured via his caculating success at weilding executive power where it counts: criminal prosecution, military engagement, and state secrecy.


  6. North says:

    Personally I blame CYA (cover your ass).

    1. There’s an issue, any issue.

    2. Politician/Official/Appointee/Expert  is asked what should be done about the issue. Their possible responses are:

    A: Nothing

    B: Something

    3. Outcomes of these two responses are very heavily weighted towards “something”.

    4Aa: You propose doing nothing and nothing significant happens. People are content but you accrue virtually no credit.

    4Ab: You propose doing nothing and something significant happens. People are outraged! You have been derelict. You should have done something. If you’re a politician it is highly likely your campaigns are toast. An official or appointee; your career is in peril. An Expert; your reputation is badly harmed endangering your status as an expert.

    4Ba: you propose doing something and nothing significant happens. You claim credit. Your actions have prevented disaster! You appear competent and insightful. Politicians get votes, officials get career advancement, experts get prestige.

    4Bb: you propose doing something and something significant happens. In the event that what you proposed doing ameliorates or helps the situation you are, if anything, more lauded than 4Ba. If what you proposed is either insufficient or useless then you were underfunded/not taken seriously enough/not implemented correctly. Either way your career and prospects either advance or are not significantly harmed.

    Considering these options it seems like the weighting overwhelmingly favors doing something over doing nothing. If you do nothing or say nothing should be done you have little to no upsides with a risk of tremendous downsides. If you do something or say something should be done you have little to no downsides with a change of significant upsides.

    Short of a wholesale changing in the attitudes and reactions of voters and the media I don’t see much odds of this changing.Report

    • James K in reply to North says:

      I think this explains a lot of it.  A president is pretty much compelled to use power and acquire more.

      Another part of it is that President of the United States is an awful job.  The only perks are power and status.  As such the vast majority of people who pursue the Presidency are people who like power and/or status.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    Everyone would want a strong President at the helm of a strong central government when that particular President happens to agree with them on most of their policy preferences. The question is, what kind of a government do you want when the inevitable happens and your side loses the election?

    Over the past generation or so, we’ve seen nearly every possible permutation of distribution of partisan control in Congress versus partisan control of the White House. And we’ve seen a variety of strategies deployed — whether consciously or not — by opposition parties in Congress aimed at hamstringing the President, some of which have succeeded and others of which have failed. The bulk of those have been political maneuvers aimed at particular Presidents’ vulnerabilities and to a lesser extent the policies those Presidents have pursued. Policy attacks have succeeded or failed based largely on the economic expansion or contraction underway at the time of the criticism. Personal attacks have succeeded or failed based upon the personal charisma of the President.

    What we’ve seen very little of are efforts to mold the institutions of Congress and the Presidency so as to create a mechanism by which the President is given sufficient latitude and authority to govern but Congress but not so much authority that the government threatens liberties and the balance of power. Instead, we’ve erred on the side of Congress delegating or authorizing the President to have power, and trusting in the good faith of the President and his minions to use that power wisely. Which is a reasonable way to go as long as there is trust in the President’s good faith, and not a political dynamic that thrives upon engendering the exact opposite and pouncing upon any slip, mistake, error, or unforseen consequence as though it were a betrayal of all liberty and the first step in an open subversion of the republic into a monarchy.

    That’s not to say that the degree of power assumed by the President over the past generation has been appropriate in a principled sort of way. But when you blend the flavors of a dynamic by which both parties prefer a strong Presidency and both parties are hyper-competitive, without a willingness to mold institutions to fit the environment in which they are required to function, you get — well, you get what we’ve got, a system that is pretty much dissatisfactory from all angles to all people.Report

    • I agree with this, with one minor but noteworthy quibble.  You write:

      Everyone would want a strong President at the helm of a strong central government when that particular President happens to agree with them on most of their policy preferences.

      I think instead of “happens to agree with them on most of their policy preferences,” it would be more accurate to say “happens to agree with them on most of their policy priorities.”  If I agree with the President only 10% of the time, but that 10% is on the 10% of issues that are my highest priorities, then I probably still want a strong President.  Conversely, if I disagree with the President only 10% of the time, but that 10% is on my highest priority issues, there’s a pretty good chance that I’d want a weak President.

      I think this distinction is important because I think it tells us something about what a President’s popular base cares most about.  In this case, concerns about civil liberties would seem to be a less than high priority for liberals, even if they are an area where liberals honestly disagree with the President on a voluminous number of policies.  This is probably understandable, mind you – civil liberties concerns/abuse of executive power concerns are ultimately concerns about process, which parties out of power love to make hay out of, but have a tendency to drop as a concern the second that abiding by process becomes a limitation on their own use of power.Report

  8. Webster says:

    Just to be clear, when you speak of Conservatives who want to “win the culture wars”, you’re really referring to bigoted assholes like this guy, right?

    The one running radio ads that amount to “Hi, I’m Dave Wilson, and I’m a frothing-mouthed  homophobe who’s running for mayor because I hate lesbians and think that the current mayor will turn all your kids gay just by being mayor.Report

  9. Steve S. says:

    I think you’ve got this wrong.  While few people are big-L Libertarians most, including left-leaners, have libertarian instincts that swim in the great goulash of ideas in their heads.  I would say that lefties don’t want strong central government so much as they want government power, such as it is, to be directed in ways they consider more productive.  For instance, rather than having the world’s biggest security and incarceration state, as we now do, they’d like to see resources devoted to, well, I don’t even have to list them, do I?  As for the Presidency I personally would like to see the office entirely abolished, not that I’m holding my breath.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Steve S. says:

      Actually I think you’re right. My point is that the strong presidency – if it can help achieve certain liberal goals – can mean that other goals, like a return to more civil liberties, an end to the war on drugs, etc. become casualties of politics.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to Steve S. says:

      I approve of “goulash” — nice touch. I prefer “salmagundi”, but either will do.

      “I don’t even have to list them, do I?”

      I would like to see the list — then we can have a discussion regarding limits on government power.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

        I mean it’s not so scary to talk about a strong, productive government, but when we get down to how much power this government should possess and begin talking about specific, productive actions,  it becomes something different.Report

        • Steve S. in reply to MFarmer says:

          I’m just talking about the usual laundry list:  education, infrastructure, social programs, and so on.  Since we’re trying to be general and brief, lefties want to see government power used to levy adequate taxes that are spent on what they perceive as the common good, they also see government  as a counterbalance to private power centers, hence they want to see adequate regulation of the financial sector, and so on.Report

  10. Tom Van Dyke says:

    On abortion, the social conservative position is to overturn Roe and return the question to the states via federalism.  This is both realism and constitutionalism, since a constitutional amendment banning abortion is not in the cards.

    In fact, the same holds true for gay marriage: defeat it at the state level, and resist the federal gov’t from imposing/importing it from other states.  If one pokes through the hubbub about NY state instituting gay marriage, there was little hubbub because it was entirely appropriate under federalism, that one or some states could serve as “laboratories of democracy” without binding the rest.

    But yes, conservatives favor a strong presidency when it comes to national defense, since Congress is ill-equipped to handle it, and the Constitution explicitly names the president as commander-in-chief.

    As for drugs, there is an incoherence,shared by many Democrats, the majority of whom also still poll to be against legalization: it’s that they don’t want them legalized, but not necessarily illegal either.  Sort of the no-man’s land we’re in now, like illegal immigration. You don’t want drugs legal, but you don’t want someone in jail for a joint or a gram either.


    The structural problem with legalizing that which was proscribed is that it carries an implication of society’s endorsement.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      So, all those people who co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment and Federal Life Amendment (or whatever what it’s called) aren’t true social conservatives?Report

    • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Tom have you even thought through what the SoCon position on GM and abortion you advocate would look like. If i am married (hetero) my marriage is valid throughout the country. But what happens with GM in your case. If a gay couple gets married in Mass. is there marriage still legal throughout the country or just in Mass.? Is the couple suddenly unmarried when they cross a state line? That is still keeping GM as a lesser second class type of marriage and doesn’t answer the legal questions that a marriage cert is supposed to. If abortion is legal in, lets say  in 25 states and illegal in 25 then how the hell does that work. Can a woman just drive to a legal state to get an abortion? That would de facto make it legal everywhere. Would an abortion illegal state make it a crime to travel to a state with abortion to have the procedure? How would an abortion illegal state treat a woman who had an abortion in a legal state?Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

        All valid questions, Mr. Gregniak.  But the first objection is the federal government forcing unwanted and undesirable social “innovations” on the individual states: tyranny, Leviathan.

        The federalism solution at least permits a diversity of opinion, which the Leviathan solution does not.

        Stipulated in advance: America’s history on race.  This is the touchstone for all statist solutions and legitimizations for imposing centralized solutions/demands on the states.  But not everything is analogous top race, although that’s the form many or most arguments take these days.  And Moynihan’s famous

        “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

        upon further review, rather falls apart without enlisting America’s racial history. One look at the French Revolution or Sovietism or Maoism or Castroism makes the Burkean properly pause at political solutions for cultural problems.Report

        • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          The federalism option forces opinions on people, just on a state by state basis. It also elides the whole what happens inside a womb is nobody else’s business thang. Also known as privacy or what makes Bork cry. You correctly note the obvious sometimes the Fed’s need to step in to stop the states from oppressing people example. Why shouldn’t GM or abortion be seen from that lens. I get that you like using the word Leviathan, but that doesn’t equal an actual argument about the role of gov. The evil Leviathan was on the side of the angels in the civil rights era, so it seems a bit silly.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

            As we see, Greg, your argument doesn’t really work without dragging in race, which is why you had to.

            Been there, done that all over the internet, so we’ve had our say.  Peace.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

            The federalism option forces opinions on people, just on a state by state basis.

            Greg,  It allows people to vote with their feet, to self-sort for preferred policy packages, so it doesn’t in fact “force” opinions on people as much as federal policy does.  Americans have always been amazingly mobile in this way (although less so in the past couple generations for reasons that aren’t yet clearly understood, but that can’t be clearly related to income issues).Report

            • greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

              I’ve heard that and find it uninspiring. As we noted in the other thread moving is costly and risky. Its easy to say move if you don’t like a policy but that option is heavily weighted to rich folk, singles with no children and people who can be mobile. So if you don’t like a policy but you have insurance through your job how easily can you move. It sounds good but is not much of a practice or realistic option for most people. Most people can’t move or such a move to a different state would entail much less contact with parents, kids, grandparents, friends, church,etc. That is a high cost.

              For all practical purposes telling the lets say 49% who don’t like a policy “just move if you don’t like it.” seems like a less than practical solution so in essence views are being foisted on them.


              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

                Greg, you’re still defending WashDC forcing social policy on states that don’t want it. “Imposing morality” is a door that swings both ways. But of course, your moral principles are self-evident, so you need not play by any rules or social contract and respect anyone else’s.  I get it, believe me, I get it.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Are we liberals forcing women to have abortions or forcing men to marry other men? ‘Cause ya’ know, that would actually be imposing my morality on other people.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Sophistic, Mr. Ewiak.  No interest.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to greginak says:

                The flip side to this, Greg, is that a goodly number of the things that make it difficult to move are also highly correlated with ya’ll bein’ far enough along in life to know what sort of stuff would make you want to move.

                I’m not so sure a *more* federated country wouldn’t be better, due to the sorting taking place mostly during the mobile parts of your life.

                On the other hand, this might embed some things, so you do have a point there.

                The only way to know for sure is to try it for a while, though.Report

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley says:

              And you can vote with your feet if you don’t like federal laws. It’s a little harder than moving from Missouri to Nebraska, but it’s a valid option for you.

              There’s also the small matter that some of us believe your rights shouldn’t depend on an arbitrary line chosen 150 years ago.Report

    • b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Would you be willing to break down such variety in cultural authority to a level below that of states?Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

        No, Mr. Psycho.  Mr. Gregniak’s valid objections would exponentialize from conflict to chaos.

        The Constitution does set the states via federalism as having a sphere of sovereignty, not just as a midway point of devolution of power from WashDC to towns and boroughs.  This is good for both practical and theoretical reasons.Report

  11. Roger says:

    Republicans and Democrats — two denominations of the same big government religion.Report

  12. b-psycho says:

    I’m just going to throw this out there:

    If people vote for someone they think is at the least making positive noises on civil liberties, and then that person just continues the usual stomping…what the fuck is someone who still believes the vote means anything supposed to do?

    (Of course, I think the marriage of left-wing politics with the idea of a strong, “representative” state is disaster, and liberals are merely registering a scraps preference from the table of militarism, corporatism & rampant authority abuse.  But you knew that already.)Report

    • Pat Cahalan in reply to b-psycho says:

      I like Jaybird’s response to this:

      “Grab your gun and go out in the street.  If nobody else is out there with a gun, go back inside.  It’s not time yet.”

      It’s either that or “run for office yourself.”Report

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    Here’s another thought on why liberals have turned a blind eye in many instances to the many abuses of the Obama administration. 

    It’s a combination of several things, all of them tactical rather than ideological:

    • We won’t criticize our own guy.
    • We won’t criticize our own guy when he’s in danger of losing
    • The other guys would be worse
    If Obama were doing the right things about civil liberties, liberals would be a lot happier.  I am disappointed that he couldn’t do away with Guantanamo, but at least recognize that he made an effort. It would take a very brave or foolhardy politician to do much about the civil liberties aspects of the GWoT, because any future incidents would be directly (and insistently) blamed on his “softness”.  (That’s especially true for Democrats, because the Right Wing Noise Machine would be the site of the loudest and vilest blamefest.) Obama is neither. I am personally disgusted that he’s ramping up the war on medical marijuana.


    • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      all of them tactical rather than ideological

      There’s an old Native American story, so I have been told. The conscience is like a wheel with spikes on it.

      When you do something wrong, it turns and causes pain… but each time it turns, the spikes get a little blunter and the flesh it turns against gets scabby. The more and more it turns, the spikes turn into bumps into nubs until the wheel is turning around as quickly as it can, just generating a little bit of heat as it rubs against the scar tissue.

      All that to say, doing things for tactical, rather than ideological, reasons for long enough eventually presents identically to a different ideology entirely.Report

      • Pat Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

        I just had this argument on Facebook.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Who’s worse: someone that does evil things because he believes in them, or someone who does them purely to gain advantage?  Richard Russell or Orville Faubus?  I don’t know the answer.

        I wonder how much Ron Paul would compromise his principles on this kind of stuff if he had a chance in hell of winning.Report

        • The first.

          The second can sometimes be, if not rehabilitated, at least put upon a path that won’t result in you feeling compelled to shoot them.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Clive talked about this.

          “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          So far, that’s Obama;s hypocrisy isn’t as bad as Bush’s true belief, 2-0.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            I don’t know that Obama is, in fact, a hypocrite.

            He merely doesn’t believe what he was perfectly happy letting us think he believed.Report

            • North in reply to Jaybird says:

               I don’t think he’s necessarily a hypocrite. But he has demonstrated himself to be an astonishingly cautious (uncharitable read: cowardly; charitable read: hands off) politician.

              This juxtaposes very jarringly with his campaign which was about dramatic audaciousness.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to North says:

                no drama obama campaign was not about audaciousness. it was about believing, and putting boots on the ground early enough to matter.

                Yeah, we went with the one who seems a mite bit cowardly. What would you do if your children were threatened?Report

  14. BlaiseP says:

    Liberals aren’t backing Obama on his abrogations of civil liberties.   Do pay attention to what the OWS types are actually saying:  Liberals are outraged.   Gitmo is a lasting stain on the nation, the war in Afghanistan continues, the Nazgûl drones kill ever more innocent people, the DoJ attempts to insert a few lines into recent FOIA legislation allowing them to lie to petitioners about the existence of documents.   No, sir.   Liberals aren’t happy with Obama.  Not even a little.

    As for this contention wherein Liberals want strong government, do put down this too-large tar brush.  It’s ridiculous.   This Liberal wants a government strong enough to enforce our laws and protect our liberties and a law without an enforcing bureaucracy is moot.    Even the bearded mullahs of the Objectivist Madrasa contend government must act against Force and Fraud. The Conservatives have ceded too much power to the Executive during the era of Bush the Dumber, delegating to that office both the needed force and the imprimatur of fraud.   Thus we are led into the abyss of endless war and financial ruin.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Liberal and leftist need not be synonymous.  In fact, a person here was just touting Scoop Jackson, Sam Nunn and all those anti-communist paleo-liberal Democrats as some sort of proof of something.  And I meself wouldn’t put #OccupyFail in with the late great Democratic Leadership Conference’s pride and joy, Bill Clinton.

      Nice to see you back, BlaiseP.  We’ve had a real shortage of Bush-bashing and insulting conservatives just on general principles in your absence.  Things are getting back to normal.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Scoop Jackson may have been a Democrat but the Senator from Boeing was neither Liberal nor Leftist by any stretch of the imagination or prefixing.   Bill Clinton was a political weathervane, as false and transient a man as ever deposited a fart in the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office.   He was the Mini-Me of political reform.   Let’s not forget, he actually signed the legislation which deregulated Enron and the bill which repealed Glass-Steagall.

        As for insulting conservatives, well, you mustn’t whinge overmuch.   It never looks good from a grown man.    Poor ol’ Bush the Dumber is lookin’ pretty good right now, when we consider Romney, the Republican version of Bill Clinton, see previous paragraph, or the rest of the midget wrasslers currently on parade as GOP candidates.   It must be terribly vexing to be a Conservative of any stripe these days.  How did Shelley put it?
        The good want power, but to weep barren tears.
        The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.
        The wise want love, and those who love want wisdom;
        And all best things are thus confused to ill.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        In their horror of being seen as supporting anything that the Left can describe as “rightwing” ideology, liberals are shamed into supporting leftist ideas which I’m not sure many liberals believe anymore.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

      It *IS* good to have you back, Blaise. Kids these days have no technique.Report