Why is There No Political Outlet for Anger on the Left These Days?

Poll ratings show approval levels for the major political perps, meaning the President, Congress, each of the two major parties, at levels so low as to be tantamount to loathing. But while the Tea Party has become a force to be reckoned with by tapping into this wellspring of discontent, those on the left who are unhappy with the lump of coal the Administration and the Democratic party have put in their stocking have no outlet.

I wonder why this has come to pass. In the stone ages of my youth, the left was feared (some of that was due to the violence of the 1960s: riots, demonstrations, the SDS, the Weather Underground, to name a few), in fact so feared it led to the concerted right wing push that started in the 1970s. But then again, the left was also much further to the left.

One can point to some causes. The young used to be a reliable source of idealism and willingness to break china. As French Prime Minister Aristide Briand said, “The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head.” But young people in America are worried about survival (aka getting a job) and up to their eyeballs in school debt, which they can’t discharge even in bankruptcy. School loans in particular seem an almost Machiavellian device for forcing students into bourgeois conformity. And we have Obama’s veal pen strategy which neutered key groups on the progressive flank.

It might even be plausible to attribute the complacency (or maybe sullen resignation) of what passes for the left to Prozac use or learned wussiness. For instance, some of my colleagues were having fun by e-mail coming up with the name for a leftie movement to oppose the Tea Partiers. This was all in good fun, but they came up with Cammomile, which per Bill Black could stand for “Creative Anti-imperialist Majoritarian Movement Of Morally Illuminated Liberal Enterpreneurs.”

How about something more to the point, like the Pitchfork Party?

In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you are missing my point. Please revisit headline. Lefties unhappily talking among themselves is not tantamount to taking action. The Tea Partiers are getting people elected and getting a lot of play in the MSM. Are folks like Daily Kos even raising money for preferred candidates? Are any liberal agenda items getting real play in the media? To my knowledge, not.

        1. Joe Himmel

          Isn’t it obvious?

          Progressives are progressive because they try to understand things and try to act accordingly – from a point of understanding.

          The other side operates out of *not* understanding things (operating out of various illogical systems of belief) – and it’s far more easy to create anger and rage from that vantage point.

          1. lambert strether

            A couple of points:

            1. It’s important to always put quotes around the word “progressive,” because, as Atrios points out, nobody knows what it means.

            2. D partisans are going a pretty good job of strategic hate management themselves. We get a constant drumbeat of “Look! Over there! Sarah Palin!” because they are not substantively different from the Bush administration when it comes to policy.

            3. Finally, given the role that self-identified “progressives” played by helping to suppress single payer in the HCR debacle (I say debacle becauuse Americans who think HCR doesn’t go far enough outnumber the right by 2:1) it’s no wonder that Axelrod thinks that “progressives” are the Friend With Benefits that he can “take under the bleachers.” That’s exactly what they are.

      1. rental_paradise

        ‘The Tea Partiers are getting people elected’ – in primaries, till now. In general elections, it is fair to say that the Tea party is essentially unproven – though New York’s 23rd District congressional race may be a foretaste of what the Tea Party means in terms of getting people elected.

      2. cullpepper

        I’ll give you a hint (I’m assuming the average reader is 40+ here, and I’m 34, with friends mostly in their 20s.)

        There are two basic type of politically active young these days.

        The first, are part of the system. This is more important than party affiliation or class or race. You do your time, you play the game and eventually you become a capital-B Bureaucrat with guaranteed wages, health care and a vapid (if kabuki-theater) involvement in policy, politics or the vast world of non-profits (which endlessly re-sharpen their mission statements to ensure next year’s grants from the central bureaucracy and wealthy elite).

        The second, drop out. They have no faith in capitalism, central economy, “free markets” (bwhahaha, does anyone actually think their free?) or public political discourse. (Hard to blame them, when policy positions are clearly double-faced to make nice on talking points while rewarding campaign contributors.) These drop outs USED TO BE the political left, back when you dinosaurs were smoking pot and experimenting with free love. (P.S. Thanks for anti-biotic resistant syphilis. Jerks.) So what do they do now? The join underground political movements dedicated, not to reform, but to destruction. They have no faith in the process, so they don’t seek reform, they seek avoidance until the System itself is so rotten it collapses.

        For the more wall-street mined of you out there, the Bright Young Things of this generation are circling outside the campfire like jackals, waiting for you to run out of firewood.

        And let me tell you, counting on the middle east for oil, and Asia for consumer goods, makes y’all look like idiots.

        1. Mike Bell

          48 yr old here. Want to thank you for your refreshingly honest (and I believe insightful) comment. I don’t blame the dropouts one bit. If I was their age, I’d be an anarchist.

        2. Maju

          “back when you dinosaurs were (…) experimenting with free love”…

          That was in the 60s. Those are now retired. People in their 40s (I’m 42) grew up in the 80s (Reagan, second punk wave, etc.). And condoms too, smartass. ;)

          “So what do they do now? The join underground political movements dedicated, not to reform, but to destruction. They have no faith in the process, so they don’t seek reform, they seek avoidance until the System itself is so rotten it collapses”.

          Fair enough. I think it’s the best you can do, sincerely.

          Just one caveat: they system won’t fall alone. It will gradually rot… until some organized people gets angry and kick it down. Revolutions are essentially that: kicking down a rotten shack.

          Also I do not understand the word “avoidance” in the context. If you are “destructive”, you do not avoid, you confront in one way or another, right? You avoid when you’re so much fed up that you lose hope altogether, not in the system but in life itself (they call it depression, I think).

      3. angrylefty

        “Are folks like Daily Kos even raising money for preferred candidates?”

        Good grief Yves, haven’t you heard of netroots and act blue ? They are promoted heavily by DKos and have contributed a great deal of money to prefeered candidates.

        Donations to progressive candidates is a constant theme on the site.

      4. Francois T

        Tea Party is backed by billionaires, managed by far right republicans, and…aided and abetted by a mainstream media that is so slothful, so morally depraved beyond any possible redemption.

        For instance, NewsHour on PBS giving 20 minutes of unopposed prime time to Dick Armey (!!) for his “book” on the Tea Party. Not ONE question (not on NPR or pretty much anywhere else for that matter) on where does the Tea Party gets its funding, as if Jane Meyer’s article on the Koch brothers had never existed. What about the BBC deciding something THAT stupid (http://jr.ly/4zk5) just like that, in the name of fair and balanced? Let’s not even start about the constant refusal of the US media to highlight the most egregious stupid declarations of GOP politicians for what they really are, without desperately seeking ANY false equivalence from a Democrat who just happen to state publicly that the sun rise from the East, and characterizing it as being as crazy as the one from say, James Inhofe on global warming, Virginia Foxx on hate crimes, or John “Agent Orange” Boner on why should tax cuts have to pay for themselves. Did we also mention the constant stream of documented half-truths, lies and distortions coming from Fox News, that happen to always favor the right wing nuts talking points, facts be damned?

        The so-called “Left” does not have any of these media outlets (read: propaganda machine) that have been subsidized for a long time by several extremely wealthy psychopaths like Mellon-Scafe, the Koch Brothers, Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.

        Since there are no social norms remaining whatsoever to restrain the wealthiest to feel even a femtogram of shame**, their sense of entitlement does not know any boundaries or limits. They perceived the Left’s philosophy as an existential threat against what defines them; how much they own.

        ** Do you know any other culture who would tolerate a very wealthy and publicly known man whose business cards read: “I’m CEO — Bitch!”

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          “Donations to progressive candidates is a constant theme” is NOT tantamount to effective fundraising. How much DO they raise? Is it more than a drop in the bucket?

          1. angrylefty

            “How much DO they raise? Is it more than a drop in the bucket?”

            Act blue says it’s raised $151M since 2004. Respectable, but as we all know it’s impossible to compete with the corporate interests who can spend that much money on lobbyists in a single year, for a single industry !

            The United Citizens ruling has now put the final nail in the coffin of American democracy no matter what that fascist corporatist gasbag Alito thinks.

            Let’s face it, if Americans really wanted to fix this they could. Imagine 10% extra turnout for honest candidates when the elections are only 50% participation rate.

            Money’s important. People voting against their self-interest is more important.

            I’m reading “What’s the matter with Kansas?” right now. ugh.

          2. Yves Smith Post author


            You’ve switched topics. Someone brought up Daily Kos and I asked how much they raised for progressive candidates. Act Blue is a different beast.

      5. Richard

        It is a good question. My own view is that it is probably easier to start a social movement that is totally against something–e.g., the Vietnam War. In the Tea Party’s case, Obama (read: the demise of white working people). It probably helps to have a billionare backer, but I don’t think that is essential.

        The problem is the left can’t coalesce around a black and white moral issue quite so easily when Democrats are in power, because they know the end result may be something even worse than the Democrats. The possible model would be something along the lines of the Liberal Party in New York, which doesn’t run many candidates of its own but will endorse the more liberal of the existing candidates (in NY there is or was a tradition of Liberal Republicans). They are, in this way, able to sway elections and push politicians to the left. If the Green Party, for example, took on this role rather than running their own candidates in elections they are sure to lose, they might have more influence.

    2. don

      On the one side we have the non-voting public who feel disempowered to the point of passivity. This is an expression of disenfranchisement.

      On the other side we have the ongoing conflict between those who form loyalty as conservatives or liberals, fighting pitched battles over whether Rep. or Dem. paths offers solutions. This less an ideological fight than a fight between sides that serve to keep in place the status quo. Such societal antagonisms serve to keep the working/middle class fighting among themselves, which can’t but be of pleasure to the ruling elite.

      During the last couple of decades we have had what has been termed culture wars. Don’t hear much about that anymore. Conservatives and liberals took sides and, as for the left, it was all about taking stakes in advancing democracy for race, gender, sexual preference, etc. This was an outcome of the post-Vietnam/cultural revolution, the outgrowth of which was the women’s movement, civil rights movement, environmental movement.

      Today we are witnessing a historical shift in which class and economic issues take center stage. This is developing as it becomes more appartent that economics divides society more sharply along class lines. This can only be resolved politically (and I don’t just mean electoral politics), turning the focus of towards the democratization of economy, thus moving away from identity politics based on the aforementioned social movements.

      The left lags in making this shift, still holding to an identity politics, in which one identifies with being liberal, and thus still looking to social change as resting with increased power in the hands of the Democratic party.

      Until the left moves to a critique of political economy and the associated emphasis on the need to democratize economy, it will remain subject to reactionary forces of the right that find expression in the Tea Party, a “party” which only serves the elite in their effort to maintain the status quo by keeping us fighting among ourselves.

      1. kievite

        On the one side we have the non-voting public who feel disempowered to the point of passivity. This is an expression of disenfranchisement.

        Actually this is a of political control called “inverted totalitarianism” where the goal is political disengagement of peasants and MSM for “circuses part” and brainwashing. Here is one quote from Amazon review to Democracy Incorporated:

        The author uses the terms “managed democracy” and “inverted totalitarianism” almost interchangeably to describe the marginalization of citizens to control the direction of the nation through the political process. He contrasts the inverted form with the totalitarianisms of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

        In those cases the citizenry were kept mobilized to support the state with no reluctance to suppress dissenters. In this new modern form, a passive populace is preferred. Barriers to participation like faulty management of elections are implemented, but more subtle and effective is the propaganda dispensed by schools and the media, not to mention the numbing component of entertainment, especially spectaculars.

        Also disconcerting to the average person is constant technological change as well as an unsettled economy usually instigated by business entities. Moreover, the perpetual “war on terror” creates widespread apprehension.

        A fearful and distressed citizenry is less likely to have the energy to challenge the power of elites and governmental measures that supposedly provide protection, like the Patriot Act.

  1. F. Beard

    In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives? Yves

    Because socialism has been proven to be a failure? So what is the alternative to our current system that has not been tried and rejected?

    We need something new. I suggest we practice true capitalism which would not allow a government backed banking cartel.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      So you are telling me that Scandanavian countries are a failure? Really? They’ve sported better growth rates than the US.

      And the extreme experiments in lack of government intervention in the private sector, like Chile, Russia, and Ireland, result in plutocratic land grabs and crashes.

      A mixed economy seems to be the best model, but some thought needs to be given as to what “mixed” looks like, and the US ideological blinders make it well nigh impossible to have that conversation. So we hate industrial policy, which means we have industrial policy by default (bloated military, banking, health care and advanced education sectors).

      1. psychohistorian


        As I have stated before, I am more than happy to be cannon fodder for some serious social movement for change but, IMO, there is not enough human pain and social visibility/understanding in America at this time for changed to be forced by the masses…..and it may be a long time coming or it could be tomorrow.

        It sure is frustrating waiting. I have always viewed the problem of precipitating change as that breaking of a log jamb in a river….just need to find that right log. I keep looking for it.

        1. Diogenes

          Psychohistorian make a couple of spot on points in two separate posts:

          “… there is not enough human pain and social visibility/understanding in America at this time for change to be forced by the masses”; and

          “… manipulable Americans are frozen in place until this situation resolves itself”

          I believe the metaphor that best describes this reality and which– despite being well know–n warrants repeating again and again is the story of the frog in the frying pan:

          A frog will jump out of a hot frying pan, but will sit in water that slowly goes from cold to hot until he cooks to death.

          1. jawbone

            Well, that suggests a variant to the old saying, “hasn’t got the sense that God gave geese”:

            Today, it would be, “hasn’t got the sense that God gave frogs.” Loses some alliterative punch, but, hey….

      2. F. Beard

        A mixed economy seems to be the best model, but some thought needs to be given as to what “mixed” looks like, and the US ideological blinders make it well nigh impossible to have that conversation. Yves

        Yep. Americans are idealists. As for “mixing”, we need separation instead, imo. The private sector should not have the power to wreck the public sector and vice versa. I would think a way to achieve that and please everyone worth pleasing would be to separate government and private money supplies. Let government money by legal tender for government debts only (“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s”)and let the private sector develop tax-free private monies including the use of common stock as money.

        It’s time to give alternative monies a chance without the IRS crushing them. And I will ask again, “What part of government backed fractional reserve banking system in a government enforced monopoly money supply sounds like the free market?” The way to attack so-called “free market” capitalists is to point out their hypocrisy, imo.

        But I don’t blame anyone for thinking socialism is a solution. It would certainly be an improvement over our current fascism. But I think there truly is a “third-way” which allows a free market for maximum growth and stability along with the public sector which probably won’t wither away any time soon.

        1. greg b

          I like a lot of what you say in your post F. Beard.

          We are idealists yes (which is ok) but we also have some serious issues with accepting that our history we tell to each other is seriously flawed. Our romanticism with our founding fathers, our constitution and our greatest generation are in need of a cold slap in the face. I love much of what America has accomplished but e need to look at the warts as well

          I think I could go along with the separate money systems. Certainly the details matter but it could be a fruitful area of consideration.

          This………… “What part of government backed fractional reserve banking system in a government enforced monopoly money supply sounds like the free market?” The way to attack so-called “free market” capitalists is to point out their hypocrisy, imo.”……. other than the “fractional reserve” part should be shouted from the rooftops, like the scene in “Network”.

          I love talk about third way solutions, more often than not the dichotomies we present ourselves with are completely false.

        2. Mairead

          If we strip ‘socialism’ of its broader social connotations and reduce it to nothing but its economic core –fully-distributed ownership of productive operations and their profit– then we can see that socialism works very well indeed, and that about 800M people the world around choose it in everyday life.

          The Mondragón Corporación Cooperativa in the Basque country of Spain is probably the canonical example of socialist success today.

          Started in the fascist ’50s with 5 young out-of-work engineers and a 1-eyed socialist priest making paraffin [kerosene] stoves in a village shed, it’s now a €33G network of socialist operations doing everything from basic research through banking and retail groceries and supporting more than 80K employees and their families.

          (Just recently, they and the Steelworkers agreed a pact in which they’ll jointly begin creating a Mondragón-like network in the US, too)

          As to the rest of the 800M people, they practice socialism by working and/or trading at distributed-profit groceries, banks, insurance companies, dairies, and a myriad of other businesses.

          Socialism is alive and well, and working all round the world.

      3. kievite

        “And the extreme experiments in lack of government intervention in the private sector, like Chile, Russia, and Ireland, result in plutocratic land grabs and crashes. “

        For Russia it was not experiment. It was rape. Or in other terms planned operation by Western powers to destroy former opponent. It was extreme almost medieval type cruelty that will be remembered for generations; I suspect that this Bzhezinsky and neocons inspired geopolitical game will eventually backfire. Please read Anne Williamson’s testimony. Here is one quote:

        From the perspective of the many millions of her children, Mother Russia in late 1991 was like an old woman, skirts yanked above her waist, who had been abandoned flat on her back at a muddy crossroads, the object of others’ scorn, greed and unseemly curiosity. It is the Russian people who kept their wits about them, helped her to her feet, dusted her off, straightened her clothing, righted her head scarf and it is they who can restore her dignity – not Boris Yeltsin, not Anatole Chubais, not Boris Berezovsky nor any of the other aspirants to power. And it is the Russian people – their abilities, efforts and dreams – which comprise the Russian economy, not those of Vladimir Potanin or Viktor Chernomyrdin or Mikhail Khodorkovsky or Vladimir Gusinsky. And that is where we should have placed our bet – on the Russian people – and our stake should have been the decency, the common sense and abilities of our own citizens realized not through multilateral lending but through the use of tax credits for direct investment in the Russian economy and the training of Russian workers on 6-month to one year stints at the U.S. offices of American firms in conjunction with the elimination of U.S. tariffs on Russian goods.

        1. Maju

          “… planned operation by Western powers to destroy former opponent”.

          Probably to an extent but certainly it was also an insider job within the Soviet bureaucracy. For what I have read this was foreseen by Trotsky, who was aware that the excessive power of the bureaucracy (incl. secret services, army, etc.) was a danger in the form of a new class of bourgeois, who would want eventually to make their privileges inheritable, i.e. restore Capitalism with themselves as the new ruling class.

          It was also a failure by Stalinism to adapt to the Toyotist era of the Social Worker (Negri). They remained for too long, thanks to repression, in the Fordist disciplinary model and what worked in the 30s, 40s and 50s, gradually collapsed in the 70s and 80s for lack of any meaningful reform. In this sense, the Yugoslavian model was much more dynamic (and highly developed) but this one was blown up, again both from the outside and the inside. The Chinese model has also been collapsed into a fascist hybrid model from inside, even if it is one that is somewhat successful (as Capitalist system under a nominal red banner) at least by now. Even in Cuba now they are doing the wrong thing and restoring Capitalism step by step instead of democratizing Socialism.

          Obviously Stalinism has been a failure in the mid-term and we must learn something from that: that Socialism needs participative democracy, freedom of speech (not the same as corporate media) and workers’ direct management of the industries. In fact, cooperatives is what has survived best in the former USSR (and even in the USA this has been applied to GM in a hybrid way), providing their workers with sustain even in times of hardship.

          1. kievite

            Probably to an extent but certainly it was also an insider job within the Soviet bureaucracy. For what I have read this was foreseen by Trotsky, who was aware that the excessive power of the bureaucracy (incl. secret services, army, etc.) was a danger in the form of a new class of bourgeois, who would want eventually to make their privileges inheritable, i.e. restore Capitalism with themselves as the new ruling class.

            Yes collapse of the USSR was by-and-large caused by internal problem (althouth role or financed by West wave of nationalism and West imposed technological isolation should not underestimated). BTW this myth that Reagan administration won the Cold War is still current.

            But the problem that I mentioned is different. US essentially forced Russian into so called shock therapy (using Harvard academic mafia (authored by Jeffrey Sachs and implemented by Summers protege Shleifer and several other Harvard academic brats with a couple British poodles) and internal compradors in Yelstin government as fifth column). As a result poverty level jumped from 2% to 40%. Everything that can be stolen was stolen by implementation of rapid privatization policy.
            Sachs still insists that Yeltsin , rather than his American advisors, was responsible for the fact that the privatisation policy amounted in practice to the theft by a handful of favoured apparatchiks of the industries previously ran – in its own inimitably corrupt fashion – by the state. The former World Bank economist David Ellerman counters that it was the rapidity of the privatisation which made such an outcome inevitable, declaring that “Only the mixture of American triumphalism and academic arrogance could have produced such a lethal dose of gall.”
            In Ukraine and some other republic the magnitude of collapse was even greater and all middle class was essentially wiped out. Many emigrated. Also a lot of assets were simply stolen by western companies for cents on the dollar (disaster capitalism in action; some of most blatant cases were reversed under Putin, but not much). Bush II administration was busy with reelections and Clinton administration never viewed Russia as a partner only as a body on the ground to kick with a boot with impunity. President Richard Nixon pointed out that a major aid package could stop the economic free fall and help anchor Russia in the West for years to come. The Clinton administration’s greatest failure was its decision to take advantage of Russia’s weakness. They treated it as another Axis power defeated in WWII and tried to get as much as possible politically, economically, before Russia recovered. Here is a relevant quote from Foreign Affairs article “Losing Russia”:

            BEHIND THE facade of friendship, Clinton administration officials expected the Kremlin to accept the United States’ definition of Russia’s national interests. They believed that Moscow’s preferences could be safely ignored if they did not align with Washington’s goals. Russia had a ruined economy and a collapsing military, and it acted like a defeated country in manyways. Unlike other European colonial empires that had withdrawn from former possessions, Moscow made no effort to negotiate for the protection of its economic and security interests in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet states on its way out. Inside Russia, meanwhile, Yeltsin’s radical reformers often welcomed IMF and U.S. pressure as justification for the harsh and hugely unpopular monetary policies they had advocated on their own.

            Soon, however, even Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev–known in Russia as Mr. Yes for accommodating the West–became frustrated with the Clinton administration’s tough love. As he told Talbott, who served as ambassador at large to the newly independent states from 1993 to 1994, “It’s bad enough having you people tell us what you’re going to do whether we like it or not. Don’t add insult to injury by also telling us that it’s in our interests to obey your orders.”

            But such pleas fell on deaf ears in Washington, where this arrogant approach was becoming increasingly popular. Talbott and his aides referred to it as the spinach treatment: a paternalistic Uncle Sam fed Russian leaders policies that Washington deemed healthy, no matter how unappetizing these policies seemed in Moscow.

            As Talbott adviser Victoria Nuland put it, “The more you tell them it’s good for them, the more they gag.” By sending the message that Russia should not have an independent foreign policy — or even an independent domestic one — the Clinton administration generated much resentment. This neocolonial approach went hand in hand with IMF recommendations that most economists now agree were ill suited to Russia and so painful for the population that they could never have been implemented democratically. However, Yeltsin’s radical reformers were only too happy to impose them without popular consent.

          2. Maju

            Sure, Kievite. Total global domination doctrine is the main US foreign policy doctrine. That’s why Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, etc. The USA failed to stabilize the post-Cold-War World because they were not interested in stability, much less democracy, human rights, etc. but in absolute global power. This has destroyed themselves in a pile of military expenditure (also one of the causes of the USSR collapse) and brought endless grief to many parts of World.

            Total domination is a madman’s dream: nothing can be controlled totally. Their leadership would have better been creative and be satisfied with a less aggressive role as primus-inter-pares, which should have produced much better results I presume. They should also have taken lessons from the USSR but their ideology prevented them from doing so, as they falsely believed that this kind of collapse could only happen in a “communist” system, that Capitalism was “perfect” (invisible hand and all those myths). Now they are in the place of the USSR, with Afghanistan and a “Chernobyl” of sorts too (Louisiana oil disaster).

            (Sorry: I had to reply to myself because it seems no more reply tabs are allowed).

    2. cullpepper

      How? A “free” free market requires honest actors to regulate. Otherwise, everything trends towards monopoly. Evolutionary biology is very instructive in this regard.

    1. East Coast Cynic

      “Demonstrations are totally repressed now.”

      and the Demonstrations that are not repressed are not covered by corporate media, therefore, there are no issues with status quo policies in the eyes of the critical mass.

      1. jawbone

        Hence, the importance of calling the media what is really is — MCM should be used to repeat over and over that what we have is Mainstream CORPORATE Media. The important word is “Corporate.” Even NPR and PBS are now almost totally dependent on the largesse of Big Big Bidness or the Uberwealthy. Corporations are the major “underwriters,” aka funders.

        That, along with the scares the Republican administrations and Congresses put into the leadership of our public broadcasters, has accomplished careful compliance with the corporate lines and a tilt to the right. There are limited areas of discussion permitted even on shows such as NewsHour.

        Huge demonstrations against Bush’s planned illegal invasion of Iraq? Dismess the little DFH’s. Bury their message, if they can’t be ignored. Do not have substantive discussions of their issues.

        Obama, of course, took things into his own hands concerning his HCR (High Corporate Revenues) health insurance “reform.” He told the public, and the MCM, that single payer was “off the table,” a reputable questioner about single payer was not included in the WH blog about a health insurance town meeting, and representatives of organizations supporting single payer were not permitted to be present.

        And we got how much MCM discussion of single payer, Medicare for All Improved!, as a serious, better, and cheaper alternative? I heard callers to talk shows told that their questions about single payer weren’t pertinent as the president had taken single payer off the table. MCMers (members of the MCM) would use the same excuse for not discussing single payer.

        In spite of this Democratic prsident’s suggested news embargo, an amazingly high number of people at the end of debate still wanted “something like” Medicare for All Improved!. Polls before Obama issued his fatwa had people supporting single payer in the low 60’s or higher; polls at the end had virtually the same numbers.

        And these people were ignored, probably because our pols nowadays pay attention to those in higher income brackets or with huge clout. Not the people.

  2. psychohistorian

    I am back from a late solstice party and laughed in a sick way at your call for a pitchfork party.

    I spoke to two intelligent women about the postings and commentary on this site and they glazed over in an activist sense. I know my presentation is not what it used to be but I would have to posit that manipuable Americans are frozen in place until this situation resolves itself. They both agree that the potential for “radical” events is much higher than in past times of their lives (early 50s’ I think) but don’t see themselves as part of the process.

    So, there is that anecdotal good night….no pitchfork party in one segment of Portland, OR….not even dreams of such but serious foreboding.

    I could get old waiting.

    1. Maju

      “… frozen in place until this situation resolves itself”.

      Absolutely, your description is amazingly accurate. And not just in the USA, I believe that is also the case in Europe, even if to a slightly lesser degree because in Europe there’s still some remnant of the class struggles of the recent past.

      People has grown used to have rulers one way or another solving the problems for them more or less. In the context of The Crisis this is not anymore the case, rather the opposite, but people are still paralyzed by the spell. Spell that is also the media bombardment of “the end of ideologies” and particularly of Socialism, which has been going on for two or three decades already, a whole generation.

      This is in fact part of the process of gaining class conscience, as I (and others) understand it but it’s the worst part: the “wasted” time of waking up without really knowing what to do or what hopes and expectations exist. In this context there can be even punctual spontaneous riots but organization is lacking and there cannot be class struggle from the left, from the working class without organization.

      As I see it, we are now in a time that resembles Illustration, including the deep economic crisis of that period, but not yet the revolutionary period that ensued after it.

      So now it’s time of sowing the seeds for future (hopefully near future) revolutionary processes, partly by discussion but also partly by starting the organizing process. In this sense, I recently read about this project of forming what they call a Mass Party of Labor in the USA, which is in fact running already in the Carolinas as far as I understand. I must say that I am not in any way affiliated to the project (I am European and atm unaffiliated to any organization) but I have been reading about such things at this Trostkyist site and find what they say very reasonable.

      Just a hint, I guess there may be other alternative options but what really matters is to get gradually organized in order to rebuild that left that Reaganism (senso lato) has so successfully weakened by means of consumerism and propaganda. There are no more crumbs in stock, so people will gradually wake up and get organized and ready to fight, not anymore for mere crumbs but for the whole cake.

      In fact, IMO, we are at the beginning of the final crisis of Capitalism and if humankind wants to survive, it (we) will have to do something about what next.

      Also I wanted to say that the biggest short term risk seem now to be the capitalization of The Crisis by the far right (read Teabaggers in the USA), which is (historically) typical of societies where the middle class is being impoverished. They can’t provide solutions, the same that Islamic Fundamentalism can’t either, because they have zero alternatives but they can cause a lot of trouble and serve as hit squads for the Oligarchy.

  3. Max Keiser

    there is no ‘shock left’ radio or TV

    DailyKos is center – not left

    Air America – was center – not left

    In my opinion – my shows on RT and PressTV – as well as ResonanceFM in London fit the bill for a ‘shock left’ format. This is by design.

    do i get support from the left in the US?


    Left wing thinking is effectively outlawed in the US – calling it ‘terror support speech’

    yes, there is Amy Goodman – but she does not cover economics, finance and markets with much depth.

    ironically, the biggest radio/TV outlet in the US that takes on the banks – is Alex Jones – who is more left than he knows, or admits to, IMO.

    Thanks again Yves for being on “Keiser Report” we got great response.

    1. jest

      Max –

      You raise a point that no one has grasped, is that there is no true left in the US any more. If you go to Europe, left would be considered a full blown socialist or communist party.

      In the US, fringe or extremist left means having a UK or Canadian style health care system. Canadians don’t strike me as Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro sympathizers, but here we are.

      Even the supposed champion of left wing media, MSNBC, is a total joke. Joe Scarborough? Dylan Ratigan? Chris Matthews? Andrea Mitchell? I mean come on, you gotta be kidding me… Matthews criticizes the “pinkos” on air more often than Gibbs or Axelrod.

      1. max keiser

        by the ‘left’ we also mean the opposition.

        there is no political opposition to the same group that’s been in power since the neo-cons first started grouping in the Nixon White House.

        Opposition is fun.

        The same tired power grabs by the same folks over and over again – as the wealth and income gap widens – if, quite frankly, boring as hell.

        There is simply no left/opposition at all so there is no real debate whatsoever.


    2. tar, etc.

      Both the left and right have been manipulated. The tea party speaks for a majority in their original, non-televised voice, and the left also garners a majority when it was a populist voice. Both got manipulated so that America loses no matter which “choice” it makes. The majority has been run around in circles until exhausted and silenced.

      One thing I have noticed, as I have watched the “heads they win; tails we lose” nature of it all, is that what has gone missing is any sense of our nation, our right to self determination, our belief that our government exists to represent our interest and our military is for our defense: ownership and unity. This all sounds very quaint now, and certainly the left has excelled at belittling these concepts. But it partly explains the nation’s exhaustion. Are we really supposed to get worked up over another round of gay marriage? Can we abide another election with one half of the population screaming “racist” at the other? We are exhausted because there is no meaningful vision for Americans as a people, and that has been done on purpose, imo.

      The boomers have waited for the pendulum to swing back, for issues like healthcare to be addressed in a way that makes sense for the citizens. It hasn’t happened, no more than the DOJ investigated the crime of taking us into Iraq. The press corpse has given the financial elite a full pardon on blowing up the economy, and those bills and all future bill will be dumped on us. Again, we hear that Americans are uneducated, but education was supposed to be the panacea when jobs started being shipped to China in the 80s turn down! Hard to believe that story now. No, I think the unemployed will just have student loans to go with the rest of their company store credit.

      Outrage fatigue turns to exhaustion, and all avenues of escape – representative government and free speech – are blocked. It is reasonable to take a cabaret mentality and try to enjoy whatever good may be left of life when TPTB seem intent on creating an unending nightmare.

      1. John

        I think this is essentially right. On the right, there is cynical financial support funding PR for the Tea Party types. On the left there is a perception that the conservatives don’t represent conservatism and that Obama and the establishment have coopted the left and are triangulating against the right as hard as they can. Unfortunately for Obama and Democratic congress critters that means that few on the left see any real choices or reason to come out to vote. I can vote for the Democrat who is going to give the country away and perpetuate unnecessary wars or I can stay home having become disgusted and dispirited.

        The only way we’re going to ever get responsive politicians is if we can get people interested in primaries and candidate selection. Right now, that part happens largely in the smoke filled rooms or perhaps simply in the empty polling places when primary elections are held.

        1. anon


          As Hugh (September 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm) said below, working for progressive candidates before and during the primaries isn’t enough. We tried that in 2006 and 2008. Those candidates, many of whom were opposed by the Dem. establishment, abandoned their progressive supporters and embraced the mainstream Dem. party soon after they were elected. (And yet supposedly progressive blogs continued to defend these “progressives” and to shut out those who criticized their abandonment of progressive policies.)

          We need to find a way to hold such candidates accountable as well as a way for them to resist the pull of mainstream Dems once they’re elected (assuming that they were really progressive in the first place – I think at least some were). Unless we find a way to organize, then find a big pile of money that we can use both as a carrot and a stick (e.g., threat to primary them in the next election), I’m not sure what we can do. Having a critical mass (a reasonably sized caucus?) of progressives in Congress would probably help those who get elected resist being pulled/coerced by mainstream Dems. With or without that mass, it seems to me that it’s important to create support in DC and in the pols’ home districts for progressive policies. All those seem difficult to me.

          As Hugh noted, virtually all “progressive” political blogs are extensions of the Dem party. If you don’t toe the line (which may be slightly outside what’s supported by the Establishment Dems), you’ll be ostracized there. That makes creating a lasting, sustainable org (which you need to hold the pols accountable) difficult. I don’t have the answers for how to create enduring carrots and sticks (usually money) or how to help the progressives that are elected resist the pull of Establishment Dems. But I think all those are important elements that we should work to create.

  4. Paper Mac

    Forgive me for quoting at length from this article, but it’s highly relevant to Yves’ post. From Joe Bageant here:

    “Most educated American liberals, however, believe simply being progressive makes them, by default, the nation’s saviors — morally and intellectually right in all things. As proof, they read more and, allegedly, are more open minded than most conservatives, except when it comes to their daughter dating a redneck named Ernest who lives in a trailer court behind the strip mall. They are certainly among the educated class in a country known for its lousy schools and a dull, sated and unquestioning public. Education and access to education are now our fundamental class delineators. Higher education is now for the privileged. And that privilege, almost regardless of profession or career, is a future that depends on government. Liberal or conservative, it matters little. In fact, this privileged class votes Democratic more predictably than the working class, Hispanics or Blacks.

    So when educated liberals look up from their copy of The Nation or the Jon Stewart show, they behold a chilling sight: Beefy mobs waving teabags and demanding tax cuts to help pay for new schools and bridges, Sarah Palin emerging from the ashes of the McCain campaign to become the high priestess of the uncurried tribes, with a Mormon named Glenn Beck exhorting millions of fundamentalists to seize the country. They feel that something has gone terribly wrong with America.

    Immediately they conclude that it is the American people’s fault through their backwardness, incomprehension and misdirected anger, and that maybe it serves them right for not rallying behind the flying progressive standard. (I’ve been plenty guilty of this myself over the years, and am now a recovering American liberal, well on my way not to conservatism, but toward a strumpetocracy, government by strumpets. It’s a real word, Google it.) Not that the progressive flag was actually flying; American liberals threw down their standard 40 years ago in the rush for comfortable technical, teaching and administrative jobs in government, universities and non-profits. “Ah yes,” they wailed, the people have let us down. They are absolutely disgusting!” liberals agreed. And they still agree. Read the comments on Huffington Post or Daily Kos.

    Or look at the arrogance of Barack Obama’s characterization of American heartlanders “clinging to God and guns.” Which we do. However, implicit in his statement was that both God and guns are indicators of an ignorant loser class. When opponents scalded him for his remarks, he justified them by pointing out he had said, “what everybody knows is true.” Meaning everybody in his class, the educated liberal class. Hard to believe their predecessors were the point men and women for the Scopes trial, the eight-hour day, unions, anti-McCarthyism, Cesar Chavez, Negro civil rights.”

      1. Neil D

        It is garbage, but it reveals once again, as if there was any doubt, the complete break down of American society. Conservatives like the one quoted want to deny the legitimacy of liberal thought. We are seen as useless at best and criminals at worst.

        And there is a whole lot of truth in the charge that liberals dropped the ball years ago bought into the national security / free trade corporate state.

        At this point all that could be accomplished has been. The political environment will not allow anything but the status quo. The lesson of the last 10 years is that liberalism cannot advance any further until the right is dealt with. So unless you plan on another civil war, nothing will change until the over 50 generation dies out. Here’s an idea – eliminate Medicare to hasten those deaths!

        1. Marsha

          How will getting rid of me (former Dems over the age of 50) change things?

          Personally I think my generation is the last chance this county has until there actually is another revolution.

          Why am I a former Dem? Because I was kicked to the curb by the likes of Kos and Atrios and the “Democratic Party” because I was a worthless 50+ woman who should stand aside and let the young guys take over.

          Congratulations. You’ve done a swell job of destroying anything left of the Democratic Party.

          1. weinerdog43

            Marsha, for pete’s sake what a LAME-O argument. You’ve been kicked to the curb by a blog?!?! I’m 52 and if you are such a pantywaist that your feelings are hurt by bloggers, the no loss whatsoever.

          2. Marsha

            I’m replying to weinerdog – but there was not reply button for me to push.

            Kos and Atrios were my only gateway to the “media” push of the “Democratic Party” in 2008. They were publishing – and allowing comment – all of the bullshit that was being slung by the boys in DC. I remember one of my comments on Kos earned 750+ negative ratings – in a matter of an hour.

            So much for discussion. And no option through which to fight and win. So I – and millions of other former female democrats – have walked. And you and your pals will see the results very soon.

            BTW – it’s saving me thousands of dollars as I am keeping my former donations and giving them to people who matter. Try Arthus Silber and Corrente, and see how good it feels to actually participate in thoughtful dialog.

          3. lambert strether

            weinerdog43’s response is a perfect example of why the Ds deserve to go the way of the Whigs, and as fast as possible, too.

            Rather than ask why she left, he not only says “Good riddance,” he infantilizes her by making it all about feelings. (The Obama Fan Base did exactly the same thing in 2008, with a toxic admixture of false charges of racism.)

            Oh, and then there’s the gay slur, too: “Pantywaist.” Dear Lord. Is it any wonder that “they have no place to go” doesn’t work for the Ds any more?

          4. liberal

            Lambert Strether wrote, “Rather than ask why she left, he not only says “Good riddance,” he infantilizes her by making it all about feelings.”

            But in her comment she didn’t describe any substantive differences with the bloggers she decried. All she did was, essentially, whine that no one paid her due attention.

        2. Marsha

          NOTA IN NOVEMBER. That’s what a growing group of former Dems (all strong liberals, by the way) will be doing in future elections.

          At least it’s a simple message: None of you are worth my vote.

        3. Charlie

          I agree that liberals deserve some of the blame for the last 30 years of conservative aggression. It is weakness and spinelessness on the part of liberal democrats that has given conservative republicans the courage to make the push for what they have always wanted but were to afraid to try in the face of opposition. ” The destruction of the constitution, the absolute control of the resources and fruits of middle class labor, and total control of the laws and rules of society in order to profit and to affect their interpretation of scripture”. In my opinion coservatives are destroying America on purpose to get their way. It is never beneficial in society to have mostly one side with all the power. Balance in power leads to representation for the majority. Imbalance of power leads to the exploitation of one side by the other.

      2. greg b

        Not total garbage.

        This………… ” Hard to believe their predecessors were the point men and women for the Scopes trial, the eight-hour day, unions, anti-McCarthyism, Cesar Chavez, Negro civil rights.”…….. is SPOT ON!!

        It is hard to fathom ( what passes for) a liberal today taking on the power structure that those aforementioned folks did. We’re all fat and sassy and our leftist brothers who fought for the things that TRULY changed life in America over the last 50+ years are laughed at and pointed at by people who directly benefit today from their efforts today.

        I work in a well compensated profession, a health care field with high technical skills and a lot of market control of the training centers (planning the shortages does wonder for your salaries). There are now close to half females in our group when there used to be about 10%. These females all get 12 weeks paid when they get pregnant and usually get schedules around their day care needs when they get back. None of them have any clue that none of this would be possible if the conservatives of the day had won the legislative battles that took place to secure their rights on this job. All they bitch about is their “Taxes going up under Obama” “Their health care costs going up under Obamacare”. The left created the way for them to have the life they do and now they scoff at it and deride it. They’re selfish bitches. I TOTALLY support all the things they get at our workplace I just wish they were more aware of how that came to be.

        The left has dropped the ball on reminding people that without their “radical” voices over the last 100 years, America would likely have no minimum wage, no paid time off, no equality of pay for females, no civil rights ….. nothing that makes it nice/proud to be an American.

        No politician has the balls to tell nor do many really believe the story I just told, but the story is true. When conservatives get their way the people/worker will lose big time.

        1. Kevin de Bruxelles

          I agree on that the quote from Joe Bageant is not total garbage; not at all. But I disagree with your point about maternity leave. In fact the women you discussed have the right to 12 weeks UNPAID parental leave by that monumental example of Leftist failure in America, the Family and Medical Leave Act. Now perhaps some states and some companies provide a little disability payment but such a pathetic law is exactly why those women hate the Democrats. Compare with what happens in a country where there really is a Left. Let’s take Sweden for example; my sources differ by there is a month or two of leave for the mother and the father and then around 15 months of leave for either. This is paid typically at 70% of salary but many companies top off the final 30%. Women in Sweden don’t bitch that much about paying taxes (or at least they wait until the tax rates become ridiculous. Most other European countries give at least 4 or 5 months paid.

          So sure compared to Mexico or other third world countries maybe historically the American Left have done reasonably well. But compared to Europe the American Left, on so many fronts, are abject failures. No universal health care, no free nursery schools, low quality primary public education, very little vacation, unaffordable higher education. The only successes that spring to mind were the GI Bill and California’s public university and junior college system. And for the most part these were accomplished by Republicans.

          1. greg b


            You’re right that we could have done better but are you arguing that it wasnt the left that got what we got? Certainly you dont believe the conservatives in this country ever gave a shit whether a women was even able to have a guaranteed position when she got back form maternity leave. BTW I didnt mean to imply that our Family Leave act guaranteed full pay while off, but it did guarantee you couldnt lose your job while off. That was a large step.

          2. Kevin de Bruxelles

            greg b,

            I think on the Family Leave Act it is a perfect example of the Left delivering the absolute minimum possible. This was the showcase piece of social legislation of the Clinton years. At the time there was a growing awareness that the US was the only advanced country in the world without some sort of maternity leave. There was an opportunity that Leftist political parties in other countries parlayed into paid leave. The Democrats killed this momentum by passing the most minimalist of bills which then took the issue off the national agenda.

            One of the main groups fighting the concept of maternity leave were upper middle class feminists. They (quite correctly) saw that maternity leave may result in companies being less willing to hire women. You do see this in Sweden where most women end up working in the public sector. Also most upper middle class feminists either weren’t really planning to have a bunch of kids or were financially comfortable enough to do so without getting paid. I feel strongly (and have argued for years) that it should be not be maternal, but instead parental leave and men should be required / encouraged to take it as well. Childrearing is far too important an activity to be left just to women!

            But the feminists pushed for the bill to be expanded to go way beyond the birth of a child (for example taking time off to care for parents, etc.) so business lobbied even harder against it. We ended up with the joke of 12 weeks off with no pay. Supposedly 177 countries have managed to get paid maternity leave but not the US.

            Not that it matters but a recent poll showed that 62% of Republicans and 74% of evangelicals agree that “Businesses should be required to provide paid family and medical leave for every worker that needs it” But you know how polls are.


        2. Marsha

          Amen to all you say.

          I am sick of the young women who have rights I never dreamed of when I was 18 years old. But my family and I protested every chance we could get to win the rights that young women take for granted and don’t realize how much they are losing by their politics today – including from their support of the “Democratic” Party (As Lambert suggested….quotes must be used because no one know what that actually means anymore.)

          As Uppity Women once said during the 2008 primary disasters…”Let them in cellphones.”

          NOTA in November.

    1. craazyman

      Aren’t we now in a strumpetocray? I think we are.

      Otherwise, you’re pretty much right on, but with a broad brush that paints in caracitures, cartoons that are amusing and somewhat insightful.

      But in all these approximations I always come back in my mind to F. Scott Fitzergald’s famous advice to writers, the opening line of his story ‘The Rich Boy’ . . .

      “Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created — nothing.”

      It seems to have been our destiny, so far, as a nation and more importantly, as a people — for all the faults of our foreign policy, the wars, the misadventures, the foreign entanglements that Washigton warned about — despite it all, to enlarge the sphere of liberty that surrounds the individual person. And all our domestic fights seem to have coalesced around just what that means.

      But now, the very idea of liberty seems to have been lost. The word itself is an anachronism. And all our debates rage shallowly around the confused idea of a justice that justifes taking yours for mine, or having mine taken for yours.

      Political language itself is ennervated and exhausted. And so the ideas that spring from it are sickborn cliched empty surfaces — fodder for sarcasm, comedy, wrath-filled explosions, spotlights that illuminate our archetypes but not ourselves.

      The latter is the harder work. In 240 or so years, a lot of demons have been slayed. Consider how much for how little historical time. It’s quite remarkable, really.

      Is that social and cultural energy still there, to push it out farther, to sublimate instinct and create from it a higher civilization, whose rewards far outstrip the self-advantage that gives the bites here and there, but not the big soul meal, the thing that makes the sphere bigger. Hmmm. I don’t know. I’d like to say Yes, but looking around, I don’t know. I’m trying to think about that one.

  5. ChuckO

    As someone who was a college student in the 1960’s, I’d say that one cannot discount the impact of the Vietnam War. You had a lot of middle-class kids who were exposed to the possibility of being sent to Vietnam, and that tended to generate a lot of anger that was expressed in demonstrations and the like, in addition to the silliness of groups like the Weather Underground. At the same time, you had the civil rights movement going on and many were the radicals who linked the two. Once you did that, it was only natural that you got to thinking about other political issues from a leftist perspective.

    Nowadays, you have a volunteer army, so those with other options don’t have to worry about fighting the wars that the government has committed itself to, and there is obviously nothing like the civil rights movement that can act as an engine for so-called radicalization.

    There are other reasons as well, but I don’t want to turn this into an essay. However, IMHO, the above are the key factors.

    1. Doc at the Radar Station

      Yes, those are key factors. I remember when Nixon resigned, all of the heat from the “left” disappeared nearly overnight. Also, those times marked the disintegration between the “old left” of trade unionism and the “new left” of civil rights focus. The sort of changes that we need the most now – the economic improvement in the lives of ordinary working people (that sea of proles out there) – isn’t being addressed. Until they are addressed we will continue to see the same dichotomy of the religious right and the privileged educated elite, with the former getting crazier and the latter getting smaller as they too are being slowly impoverished by this broken system.

    2. Jessica

      Vietnam was important in the US as was the civil rights movement, but Germany, France, Italy, and other European countries had a youth left upsurge too.
      The right-ward drift since then has also been pretty widespread among the advanced economies, so these make me suspect deeper structural factors. The biggest obvious one to me is the quality and availability of jobs for the working class and lower middle class.

  6. max keiser

    The left/right divide is not about wealth redistribution vs. no wealth redistribution. If the debate stays on that theme; the left will always lose because the right simply bribes them.

    The winning debate the left can have, while still sticking to free market capitalist tenets is; ‘private domain vs. public domain.’

    The left should be pushing for a bigger, free public domain across all boundaries including the internet.

    The main left issue today, IMO, is net neutrality.

    The Tea Party has been bought off by Big Telecom to oppose net neutrality, thus killing off a huge portion of the public’s domain.

    The left needs to fight back and do what is necessary to expand the public’s domain and kill any attempt by telecoms to dispose of net neutrality.

    Open source technology, wikileaks, crowd sourcing, crowd funding, and p2p file swapping should be supported as a way to expand the public domain.

    The current copyright system – is completely unacceptable in terms of protecting the free public domain; our common wealth.

    “Copyleft” and The Creative Commons should be supported and expanded.

    Lawrence Lessig is a left wing champion.

    Our common wealth should be more valuable than any one’s private wealth.

    Either we hang together, or we shall hang separately.

    1. Dan Duncan

      Hey Max, you aren’t the same Max Keiser who teamed with Michael Burns to sell the patented “Virtual Specialist Technology” to Cantor Fitzgerald? If so, my hat’s off to you sir! For this is the driving technology behind the Keiser-Burns Hollywood Stock Exchange (aka HSX, which was also sold to Cantor Fitz, if I’m not mistaken).

      No matter…

      As to your comment: Does the Keiserian concept of “public domain” include things like the aforementioned patented “Virtual Specialist Technology”?

      Or, do sanctimonious hypocrites first get to develop and sell the rights to this technology to Wall Street outfits like Cantor Fitzgerald…only to beat the drum of the merits of “expanding the public domain” years later, after the sale?

      [Maybe HSX Films could do a documentary on this subject. At the same time the Hollywood Stock Exchange could sell some esoteric derivatives on various predictions associated with this film.

      If so, I bet H$1000.00 on the “Grade 3 Documentary Tranche” that 3 out of 4 movie-goers will need “Exorcist Barf Bags” (which, of course, are re-usable and therefore environmentally friendly) as they puke at the nauseating hypocrisy.

      1. max keiser


        yes, that’s my technology.

        I voted against the sale to Cantor. For this reason, and I am the guy that got the MPAA to shut Cantor Exchange down.

        Do your homework before going off half cocked about stuff you know nothing about.

    2. nowhereman

      Right on Max, however it doesn’t appear that most people commenting here grasp the concept of Common Wealth.
      The ability of one sector of society to monopolize what belongs to everyone so that they can make a profit. Of course this can’t be accomplished without government collusion in legislating the theft of the Common Wealth for “the benefit of the people”
      Unfortunately, many buy into the government propaganda, or don’t even notice what has been taken from them until it is far too late.
      I have never seen a people so willing to sacrifice their liberty and privacy for the sake of a perceived threat.

      1. max keiser


        for this reason I say, there is no left at all in the U.S.

        if there was, this argument would be made.

        Example, I reprinted a piece I wrote for a German website about the banking industry on DailyKos. DailyKos thought the piece was too inflammatory toward bankers and took it down.

        No one in the U.S. will stand up to their captors.

        It’s massive Stockholm Syndrome.

        Or, maybe Americans are just too lazy to care.

    3. liberal

      “The left/right divide is not about wealth redistribution vs. no wealth redistribution. If the debate stays on that theme; the left will always lose because the right simply bribes them. ”

      But the rest of your comment is about wealth redistribution. The attacks on net neutrality, the issue of excessive copyright, etc, is all about economic rent. And economic rent is all about wealth redistribution (the recipients of said redistribution being parasites who just erect toolbooths in the economy and demand payment).

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Agree with Max’s points about both Net Neutrality, and the utter lack of articulation in US politics about the enormous value of public goods.

        The GOP has no capacity that I’ve seen to discuss or address the economic, social, and political ramifications of public goods.

        This should have been easy for the Dems.
        The fact that they have not turned the GOP inside-out regarding its abdication of oversight or protection of public goods is infuriating.

        Net Neutrality is only one premier example.
        The Dems have lost the capacity to clearly, simply explain the tremendous value of public goods. The GOP has never actually understood it.

      2. Karl

        Max’s comment was about how to avoid wealth redistribution and artificial scarcity. Peer production and copyleft are being used to create public alternatives to privately owned technology and information. You need to support it wherever you can. Net neutrality is of primary importance because critical physical parts of the network which enables this commons building activity is privately owned.

        1. liberal

          Yes, but the point is that that’s still all about wealth distribution.

          Under commons, the wealth is retained by the people.

          Under privatization, that weatlh is transfered to rent-collecting parasites.

      3. Max Keiser

        I disagree

        you fail to incorporate the idea of public commons and what this does to the idea of wealth distribution. You are doing what I suggest you don’t do – if the intention is to win points against privateers.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          you fail to incorporate the idea of public commons and what this does to the idea of wealth distribution.

          Agree completely.
          And by failing to incorporate the idea of public commons, you commit rhetorical hari kari the minute you open your mouth.

          Talking about wealth distribution — without first, and also, making clear the enormous value of public goods (wild lands, clean rivers, clean air, good roadways, functioning ports, etc, etc) — is utterly self-defeating.

          It is also intellectually vacuous.

  7. attempter

    It does seem like the vast majority of people who claim non-elitist advocacy in theory where it comes to specifics are still unwilling to break free of the general elitist thought box.

    Thus we have “liberalism”, which can be defined this way:

    Elites should monopolize property, wealth, and production, as well as all managerial and political power. But once they’ve extracted all that the workers produce, they should then let a certain amount trickle back down. And we should have pseudo-elections every few years (but those elected “representatives” shouldn’t have any other form of accountability.)

    This is basically the same thing conservatives believe, and the only difference is how sincere they are about the trickling-down (I suppose a greater number of liberals are stupid enough to believe trickle-down actually works and are sincere in calling for it) and how much should trickle down (liberals want a little more, but not much more, than the conservatives).

    So that’s the essence of liberalism and the only difference between liberals and conservatives. Both consider trickle-dwon to be morally acceptable, and indeed desirable, because both believe in the fundamental entitlement of idle, parasitic elites to steal what the workers produce and dictate all economic and political policy to them.

    This vile ideology enervates and demoralizes anyone who starts out with real populist ideals but who gets sucked into its maw. The goal of established liberalism is to crush all real anti-elitism, turn it into either the empty pose of non-elitism or preferably an allegedly more compassionate corporatism, and most of all to keep people voting for the Democrats.

    It seems that those who start out as real progressives readily end up as these spineless brain-dead “progressives”. The goal is to break them down, tame them, demoralize them. Thus for example when Obama was elected the first thing he did was arrange to destroy his grass-roots organization by having it incorporated into the Party. The goal was to take all the misguided idealism of the campaign and either tame and instrumentalize it, or else destroy it and turn it to apathy.

    So those are ways in which the Democratic Party and establishment liberalism have systematically sought to destroy all that can be called Left ideals.

    Organized corporatist “education” also plays this role. As does the psychiatric/drug racket described above. I think it’s unusual for anyone to emerge from the middle class with any inner vitality left. So that may go to whether or not today’s “progressives” are also inherently weak. They certainly seem intellectually and morally inferior, as they’re willing to support corporatist entrenchments like the health racket bailout in the first place, and they remain bafflingly unable to learn from experience.

    The right wing populists are often said to be dumb because they fight against their own interest, and that’s true. But that’s equally true of the better-educated, higher-IQ liberal rank and file. So who’s relatively more intellectually deficient? And at least the rightists are willing to fight, even if it’s in a misguided direction, while the “progressive” centrists and right-of-centrists reek of nothing but cowardice and defeatism.

    The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head.

    The alleged divide between the heart and the head is fraudulent. For those not among the feudal elite, socialism was always the only intelligent position. And of course even many elitists like Briand concede that it’s always the only moral position. (I’m talking about mass society and a centralized, wealth-concentrated economy. In a truly decentralized economy there might be more scope for experimentation.)

    That was a lie even then, but today it’s far more true that any rational non-rich person of any age would be a socialist, since otherwise you’re letting yourself be herded into the slaughterhouse.

    1. DownSouth

      Could it be the right-wing populists are just a little further along the learning curve? After all, weren’t their ideals the first to get sacrificed on the altar of neoliberalism?

      Ronald Reagan preached small government, but expanded government at a faster clip than just about any president that came before him. He preached fiscal responsibility, but it was under his watch that the trend in debt profligacy, both public and private, began.

      Maybe Obama is the Left’s Ronald Regan, creating the appearance that he’s doing one thing, while behind the scenes being nothing but a hardcore neoliberal. It’s just that right-wing populists have been putting up with this sort of betrayal for nigh on 40 years now, and it’s just beginning with the left-wing populists.

      1. attempter

        Both kinds have been used for a long time, but it seems that one difference is that quasi-“left” types were probably more likely to think things were going their way overall, gradually improving. That’s why they call themselves “progressives”.

        Whereas reactionaries by definition feel things slipping away from them. And in their case their perception is correct: their quasi-theocratic, racist, chauvenist world has been slipping away. (And maybe that’s why they’ve also been more attuned to how our economic situation has deteriorated, even though there’s where they draw the exactly wrong conclusions.)

        A non-elite liberal, on the other hand, has been delusional all these years that he thought our society was improving for the regular people. And as we see with the Obama cult, that delusion remains potent.

      2. tar, etc.

        Obama as the Left’s Ronald Reagan… I think that sums it up nicely. Reagan made conservatives feel like they were winning while traditional conservative values were destroyed. Obama is providing a liberal version of that. All the positions that the Democratic base supported have been thrown under the same NWO bus the Right’s got thrown under.

        And the way the Obama campaign split the left between generations is part of why there is “no political outlet for anger on the left.” This new generation gap will play a useful role in the upcoming Social Security reform disaster, which will eclipse the non-reform of healthcare. Consider that young Obama supporters can barely contain their hatred for boomers ripping them off with Social Security. They don’t recognize that the trillions were stolen from the boomers: this was money taken out of our paychecks over our working lives. An authentic left would be focused on where the money went and how this could have happened, not blaming those from whom it was stolen.

    2. jawbone

      That may be NeoLiberalism, but it sure doesn’t sound like the liberalism of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, as espoused by Paul Wellstone.

      Of course, Wellstone did die in one of those small plane accidents….

      1. attempter

        Who in the Democratic Party ever wanted producer self-management? Wellstone? Not that I ever heard. He may have been among the sincerely “benevolent” of despots, but a despot nonetheless.

    3. liberal

      “…but today it’s far more true that any rational non-rich person of any age would be a socialist, since otherwise you’re letting yourself be herded into the slaughterhouse.”

      No, a rational person, non-rich or otherwise, would think that government should provide public goods, regulate the market, and tax or regulate rent collection extremely punitively. There’s no need for true socialism (government owning or controlling the means of production) for non-public goods, except in empirical cases of dramatic market failure, such as medicine.

      1. attempter

        Well, at least you’re honest enough to admit your paternalistic elitism.

        except for…

        Except for the fact that history has proven overwhelmingly where this always leads.

        There’s no need for true socialism (government owning or controlling the means of production)

        Sorry, that’s not true socialism. That’s pseudo-socialism, state capitalism. Nice try, though. I’ve consistently demanded decentralization and worker self-management.

        If you really believe that’s what true socialism is, “government control”, it just goes to show how deeply ingrained your elitism is. You’re incapable of even understanding alternatives to it. Given any idea your knee-jerk reaction seems to be, “what top-down elite controls it?”

  8. scharfy

    Ahh 2008 seems like an age ago. The Left was a rising force then. Already having stormed congress, they had the presidency and a mandate.

    Had more MSM attention than one could ever dream. Tea Party was only a gleam in Glenn Beck’s eye…

    250 mil for the inaugural ball, and 2 blunderful years later – the nation is gonna hand the political football back to the repubs for a few years.

    Don’t panic, the cycles are happening quickly now, maybe ushering in the first populist in 2016 in over 100 years.

    Might seem like the left is being ignored now, but you guys had the ball for a few years and held the status quo nicely. You guys even routed some health care to private companies, ushered the Hank’s baliouts through on a silver platter, and expanded – sorry I mean shifted – the War.

    The answer is, rambling and all, that you just extended the previous regime, only shifted the pork to other side of the aisle.

    1. DownSouth


      That’s a subtly deceptive argument. Well, maybe not so subtle.

      Everything you say is true, except your calling the Obama administration and the Democratic Party “The Left.”

      The Obama administration and the Democratic Party are about as much “The Left” as the Trojan Horse was a victory trophy for the city of Troy.

      1. lambert strether


        Obama has nothing to do with “the left.” Indeed, his “victory” in the D 2008 primaries was marked not only by election fraud (affidavits) but by throwing the traditional — and left-leaning — Democratic constituencies under the bus: Women, elders, the working class, the poor. (I would also hazard a guess, though with no data except anecdotal conversations, that one unnoticed reason for the enthusiasm gap was that older D women stepped away from the party apparatus, or were purged, and that nobody who’s left really knows how to run a GOTV operation.)

        Obama’s administration, on every significant issue of the day, whether the financial power of the banks, the executive powers seized by Bush, war and peace, or corporate dominance (eg, BP) has consolidated and normalized the policies of the previous R administration.

        1. emca

          If talk could move mountains, then Obama would have the rockies in the Atlantic.

          The problem Lefties have is Obama. They needed a fearless, forthright leader willing the tackle the Right Corporatalkacy in wake of the Bush/Wall Street/Neocon disaster and what they got was a guy whose idea of negotiation was the compromise before the fact, then compromise on that compromise, then let someone else run with what’s left, spinning victory for the whole sorry, ugly mess. (And that was when he was being ‘forceful’).

          Act II of an ongoing saga of woe.

          Is it any wonder the question of Left viability is being asked?

          What’s somewhat perversely interesting, is that Obama has the mouth to talk the opposition(?) down (the recent Q&A from R. leaders), but for some reason can’t or won’t or is unable to manage the translation of words into meaningful action.

          Don’t know the exact, psychological reason for this inadequacy, but my personal favorite is still, that B of O is just a thin suit, an lightweight intellectual showboat who likes to hear himself talk, with the ego the size of 3 G. Bush’s and conviction of a stale salami sandwich.

          I’ll leave it to other arm-chair psychologists to come up with other options. I’ve spent too much thought on this topic already and end with the immortal line from a T.V. sitcom whose name I forget

          “All good heroes love a good, big fight
          Open up the bomb bays and brighten up the night.
          We applaud the people who laud us,
          You pull the roses,
          We punch the noses,
          That’s what we’re heroes for.”

  9. starfish

    Protests by the left were largely ignored by the media when they did exist. Remember the large anti-war marches that received very little media coverage? In addition to receiving very little coverage, the marches annoyed the people who did participate because the focus on the big tent brought a lot of different ideas that most people didn’t agree with to these protests. Why do we need the “Free Palestine” people at the anti-war rallies? People were herded into “free speech zones.” They were afraid of being put on no-fly lists or just being targeted by the FBI.

    Meanwhile, you have Tea Party events and candidates propped up by some major financial and media backers, and you don’t have participants actively targeted by nefarious portions of the government.

    1. jawbone

      I’m curious: Do Tea Party rallies get the same penning and runarounds that lefty anti-war rallies and marches had?

      1. Externality

        Tea party members are also targeted by the government. An Israeli company, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, was contracted by the Department of Homeland Security, and its Pennsylvania counterpart, to conduct surveillance on Tea Party and constitution rights groups. They also conducted extensive surveillance on a gay rights parade, education and environmental groups, a pro-Second Amendment group, antiwar groups, etc. The Israeli company justified this as necessary to protect “critical infrastructure” against terrorists.





  10. Three Wickets

    I’ve been a hard left liberal my entire life. You want to know what turned me away from progressives? It wasn’t economic policies or the massive and growing wealth disparity in the country, not anti-war or foreign policies, not healthcare reform, not the environment emergencies, not the fight for justice, not Potus’ ongoing performance one way or other. On all these things I’m closely aligned with progressives.

    What turned me away from progressives were 9/11 truthers, tolerated anti-semitism, inflammatory and indiscriminate accusations of white on black racism for political leverage. (Not talking about Naked Capitalism. You asked a general question about the progressive movement. I’m giving you my one data point impression of progressive political blogs.)

  11. purple

    On a broad scale it does have to do with the collapse of the USSR; much of the push from the left came from hard-core socialists who were driving the debate. The Left hasn’t found an alternative yet and is basically flailing about intellectually.

    On a smaller scale, yes, the debt slavery of the current student, and a whole host of laws which tie receiving loans to ‘being good’ , i.e. not being arrested for protesting, act as a chill.

    Also, the ‘elite’ has been successful at directing broader Left goals of economic equality and workplace democracy into more narrow ethnic and identity rights issues which, while important, are easier to control.

    1. Ignim Brites

      You are absolutely right on the first point. It is even broader than you represent. History is over in the sense that the Hegelian rationalization of the French Terror, informing communism, fascism, nazism, and progressivism, collapsed after the gulag, the loagai and Auschwitz. The Zeitgeist is dead. The American left was always in left field about the broad meaning of Hegelianism. Now it is just left behind. A bit like the dinosaurs after the asteroid.


      1. john c. halasz

        You’re just repeating Anglo-Saxon philosophical propaganda: it’s all the fault of those unempirical, illiberal Germans. A similar line blames it all on Rousseau, not just the Jacobin terror, 15 years after his death, but the whole of modern “totalitarianism” and its evils. But if you’d actually read Hegel, you’d know that not only was he a life-long liberal of sorts, in his “revolutionary” youth specifically a Girondiste, not a Jacobin, but he specifically criticized the Terror in his chapter on the French Revolution in a simultaneous critique of the Fichtean “absolute ego”.

        Aside from your completely crude reductionism about the influence of ideas, in general, which amounts to a weirdly inverted version of the materialist critique of idealism.

        1. attempter

          Well, not exactly “life-long”. As a crotchety old conservative he anointed the Prussian State the earthly manifestation of “the Absolute”.

          But otherwise I agree completely. A thinker like Hegel or Rousseau is almost infinitely renewable.

          But one would expect that kind of reductionism from a bigot who can list the pernicious ideologies of history but leave off by far the most destructive, totalitarian, soul-killing of all, hierarchical capitalism.

          1. john c. halasz

            Careful now. Old man Hegel wasn’t some sort of of blind reactionary who’d gone back on his earlier thought. He’d remained a liberal of sorts, given the context of the times and German culture, to the end, though more in the progressive conservative, Tory “wet”, mode. And he’d been “called” to Berlin at the behest of an aristocratic circle of top-down liberal reformers, with whom he has largely in sympathy. But half way through his tenure there, the old king died and the new king was a reactionary martinet in stereotypical Prussian style, so Hegel became a target of increasing official suspicion and criticism, so some of the revisions and rhetoric of his later writings amount to a protective disguise.

            As to the “absolute”, you should be clear about what it means. It’s not something given, but deliberately philosophically constructed and could be cashed out as “a structure capable of sustaining the rationality of objective truth as reconciled with the self-consciousness of rational freedom”. Hence neither the Prussian state, nor the state in general isn’t simply identified with the “absolute”, but rather the state is just one realm in which the “absolute Idea” can be manifested, and his account of the state is a normative one, to test and criticize the extent to which any given state measures up to its “Idea”.

            Nor does the notion of “totality” permit any identification with totalitarianism. It doesn’t even imply that any complete knowledge is actually attained or even attainable. Rather it results from the “in principle” style of philosophical reasoning, and denotes the rational, methodical demand that ongoing inquiry must be at once adequately differentiated in its domain and integrated with other domains into a virtual whole of reason.

            Hegel was and is a far stronger, more supple and subtle thinker that sloppy readings and caricatures allow for. Arguably, he was the first fully modern systematic thinker, who presciently recognized both the rational developmental “logic” and the problematic character of modernity in historical perspective: that modern societies would henceforth have to provide their legitimation out of their own resources, without any appeal to external/traditional sources of authority.

          2. attempter

            It’s been a long time since I read Philosophy of Right, but that brings back memories.

            By “totalitarian” I wasn’t referring to the Absolute, but referencing the guy who called it that but who’s capable of listing “nazism” and “progressivism” alongside one another but failing to mention capitalism.

            (I always laugh when capitalist propagandists cite the Terror of the French Revolution. It seems like they’re ignorant of the fact that that’s their guys, the bourgeoisie.)

          3. Ignim Brites

            Well actually attempter the appropriate political term for capiltalism is liberalism. So are you saying that the perfect expression of liberal virtue is terror. No wonder the jihadists are winning with the left.

          4. attempter

            I don’t quite understand the comment.

            But as we’ve seen with innumerable examples, the most current being liberal support for the Bush/Obama imperial war and assault on civil liberties, yes, liberals often support state terror. They do so in proportion to their support for monopoly capitalism.

        2. Ignim Brites

          Well obviously no one is going to say that Hegel laid out the program for killing the Jews or the Kulaks. But these world historical exercises were fully within the spirit of the age that rationality and morality is historically created. Game, set, match.

          1. john c. halasz

            So what exactly? You’re playing Donkey Kong with yourself? Rationality and morality don’t take place in terms of finite human existence and its temporality and thus within human history and its transformations? Do they descend from the Platonic heavens then? Are you just espousing Straussian nonsense, so that you get to so easily keep score, based on your secret “wisdom”, but without any actual risk of argument?

          2. Ignim Brites

            Well Plato would be a good start. But let us say that rationality and morality does exist within a finite historical reality. Well, truth of the matter is that the finite is increasingly even more. The finite reality in Juarez, where the Escobarian revolution is in full swing and the morality and rationality of the drug lord prevail, trumps the finite reality just across the border in El Paso. Or too put it another way, in terms of the finite historical reality, there is no universal human history. Hegel and the Zeitgeist are dead.

  12. Ina Deaver

    I think that the left is just despondent. I know that I am. And I am significantly to the left of what I see in politics. I would seriously love to see this country run like Sweden – even Germany, which is more likely what we’d get given the prevalence of skinheads here. But I frankly despair – and I use that word advisedly – of getting anything accomplished through the political process and the established media in this country. The religious zealots are still at it, because they think God talks to them and wants them to hasten the end times. Those of us who are not interested in being sacrificed to that god just spend a lot of time worrying about getting by.

    And about being tagged by the FBI. And about what the hell to say at potlucks to the rambling jackass talking about Adam Smith without having ever read him. Or about disproven tenets of voodoo economics still shambling around eating Republican brains – a testament to the power of bad ideas.

    The whole thing seems so big and ugly. On the right, they have small, digestible bites they want to take out of the world – ok, the big idea of wanting the US to be a theocracy is what drives the tea party, it seems, but they are fine with getting there a step at a time. I feel like I’m looking at eating a whale, and I’m armed with a plastic spork.

    Frankly I think about emigrating.

  13. semiconscious

    2 observations:

    1) the media’s ‘red/blue / partisan politics’ narrative has overwhelmed & corrupted most people’s thinking processes. & every word wasted on ‘leftie’ tv & websites regarding ‘celebrities’ like palin & beck as opposed to actual issues does nothing but contribute to this framing of the conversation, & the resulting lost, purposeless downward spiral…

    2) a number of us have literally ‘left’, as in ‘left the u.s.’ (joe bageant somewhat included). the most straightforward way of personally dealing with a runaway train is to simply make sure you’re not on it. life’s too short :) …

  14. Opir

    It’s not just the broader left, but those of us who believe in rational, heterodox, dispassionate goals-based technocracy (mixed with fundamental ideas about human liberty) are basically without any political outlet; we’ve got papers from think tanks, excellent blogs like this one-and music/art.

  15. joshua

    I wasn’t around to acquire any first-hand knowledge of this, so I could be wrong — but it seems to me that, if we’re looking for an historical explanation, Chuck is probably right: the draft was a direct threat to the well-being of young people, and they responded (eventually) by rejecting the War. (We could probably say the same for the impetus behind the Civil Rights movement.)

    This isn’t to discount the necessity of idealism — only to suggest that the appeal of idealism seems to be broader, at least in our country, if it is also an appeal to self-interest. There is of course something of a contradiction here: can you be a self-interested idealist?

    How to transcend or at least mitigate the corrosiveness of self-interest — that’s the rub.

    1. Opir

      Well, that’s why we have the phrase “enlightened self-interest.” Policies which benefit us personally, but also society more broadly. The first issue, IMO, is the eternally divisive (but cloaked, when you hear politicians argue) subject of negative vs. positive liberty. So many people have internalized their positions on this, and don’t even realize that they’ve done so. Convincing people that the latter is good /in the first place/ might do more good than convincing them of the benefits of particular policy X.

      The second issue, even if we got people to broadly agree that policies which benefit society overall rather than a few narrowly, is trust in institutions, which is at an all time low. Due to decades of Republicans doing everything in their power to weaken institutions through declawing, underfunding, putting in place anti-regulation regulators, and policies which drive people who actually /believe/ in said institutions out of those institutions along with the utter spinelessness, servility, and falling-over-themselves-to-compromise-to-show-how-civilized-they-are Democrats, AND the fact that both parties have allowed so very many people to abuse just about everything this country stands for – without even a tiny bit of justice meted out for their crimes (like torture, black sites, extraordinary rendition, etc.) – we’re in a situation where getting ourselves to really try again with large institutional initiatives feels dangerously irresponsible.

      Third, we have to deal with the massive overhang of craven scum that we’ve allowed to inhabit our agencies. Do we really trust these people who’ve done so much harm to run things now?

      It’s a sad situation.

      Summary: we have to convince people that policies that benefit society overall are good, then we have to convince them that institutions can be trusted, and THEN we also have to get rid of the conniving, corrupt leeches we’ve allowed to seep into our system and get people who can actually be trusted with power to run things.

      1. DownSouth

        Yep. That is what’s needed. But that’s a tall order.

        No hegemonic world empire since the Renaissance, once it has fallen into the abyss of decadence, has ever staged a recovery, not the Spanish, not the Dutch and not the English.

        Time for some evolution here, but again, it’s a tall order bringing that about.

        1. lambert strether


          I think you could argue that the English self-corrected. After they lost North America, they took India. Granted, they self-corrected into a larger empire, but still.

          And one could argue that the extension of the franchise in the 19th C, and “the making of the English working class” were also forms of self-correction.

          Interestingly, that’s our heritage. Welll, not the Straussians. Or the Austrians…

  16. Neil D

    When I think about my own personal liberal agenda, it used to be about fairness, equal opportunity, and an end to discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. I wanted there to be a safety net that helped people through hard times.

    But then a few years ago I started to wonder who I was trying to help. Many of the poor and needy seemed unworthy and ungrateful. They were drug dealers and con artists. The middle class turned to an orgy of consumption at Wal-Mart that drove jobs overseas. They looted the economy with their stock market and real estate madness. The grumpy, selfish, and mean old people spouted their hate for gays and minorites while sucking the life out of our economy to pay for their “retirement”. Many religious people turned downright nasty or became greedy showmen. (See the most recent example Bishop Eddie Long.)

    Business people and corporate hacks became the most venal of all. They abandoned American “workers” to pursue profits elsewhere.

    When I add it all up, there is no one left in America worth helping. My liberal compassion has evaporated. I’m not angry, I just don’t care anymore.


    1. craazyman

      Everything has been said before . . . ;)

      When you were young
      And your heart was an open book
      You used to say live and let live
      (You know you did, you know you did, you know you did)
      But if this ever changin’ world
      In which we live in
      Makes you give in and cry

      Say live and let die
      Live and let die
      Live and let die
      Live and let die

      -Paul McCartney & Wings

  17. nika

    I am far left and my ethnicity keeps me honest every day re: the critical need to foster diversity of all aspects of our lives.

    I do not embrace any one else’s fevered imaginings of what a left leaning person is, a lot of what I read above, comments describing or diagnosing liberals are such a load of festering crap that its sad people took the time to belch out such long comments on it.

    I can tell you from experience what a large number of progressives are doing in the US – we have moved beyond the dysfunctional circus of DC and state government and are working on localized REAL solutions to the current situation and the shit storm we are staring at (effective economic ceiling due to peak oil – the following real collapse (current economic conditions are just a warm up), the upheaval of every population on earth due to climate chaos, the collapse of modern agriculture, the post-technofantasy world where alt-energy will not keep us all motoring happily. – yeah – progressives are planning and implementing transition even tho the world govs and the govs across the US are still locked in the Infinite Growth delusion/hysteria).

    In other words, progressives are rejecting the circus of the absurd you call the Tea Party, the beige and moribund 2-party system that is wholly dysfunctional.

    Progressives are getting down to the business of creating a world (better to say smaller pockets) that is aware of and FACING the challenges of today and tomorrow versus the old political ways that are nothing more than sick delusion suitable for people who thrive on that dysfunction and hate.

    As with anyone who is rational, compassionate and clear headed – my sole motivation is NOT to line my pockets at the cost of all else in this world but to do what I can to make a place for my kids, all kids, that is robust, resilient, and works WITH the earth versus against it (mother nature will always prevail).

    1. donna

      Agree, Nika. And for those looking for where these things are discussed, read Calitics for California, or look up the progressive blogs in your state. And support Progressive Majority, which does a lot of great work to elect progressive candidates and look for and support those interested in becoming candidates.

      1. patient_anarchist

        Calitics and daily kos are not progressive. They are a media saavy propaganda arms for center-right corporatists. As a progressive, I hate DLC/DNC democrats as much as they hate crypto-fascist wingnuts. Its time to vote against democrats — especially when it does the most damage. Gridlock and political turmoil should be a progressive goal.

  18. Tom Crowl

    “In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?”

    Let me try to give you a serious answer… or at least an hypothesis…

    All group decisions must contend with balancing the interests of the individual vs the group…

    This is an ancient issue… reflected in the old standard referred to as the “Tragedy of the Commons”…

    In general we think of the “Right” as weighted towards the individual… and the “Left” towards the group…

    In truth decisions rest somewhere along that continuum…

    In biological terms its the ‘personal survival drive’ vs ‘biological altruism’ (a group-oriented drive dependent on the limits and gradations of group identification)…

    The problem is this: The survival instinct scales directly… but altruism does not.

    (An easy way to look at this is this is why a Kennedy or a Kerry can be “Liberal”, and still embrace tax dodges for the wealthy… and not fight ‘hard enough’ for minimum wage increases of single payer healthcare… they truly support them but won’t fight as hard as a poor parent with uninsured children would if such people could ever be elected as members of Congress or other positions of power)…

    This is a subtle but pervasive force over time… this slight shading of opinion and the willingness to ‘fight’ for a position…

    In SCALED social organisms (larger than Dunbar’s Number) the RIght will have an advantage because its adherents are fighting both for their own interests AND their families… for the leadership of the Left… they may believe what they say… but they’re fighting for an abstraction and sometimes against their own personal interests AND the interests of their immediate families.

    P.S. I believe this is an ancient problem and actually forms the original basis of Authoritarianism. Mechanisms of self-governance are attempts to address these problems… We are way behind in making the “META-political” changes necessary.

    The Commons-dedicated Account concept is an essential fundamental only now technically possible… its a libertarian construct for facilitating empowered association.

    The duopoly parties don’t want change. Nor do corporations want any interference in seeking to dominate online transactions. I believe its absolutely longterm essential this be a Commons-owned and controlled capability.

    Thanks to Michael Bauwens of the Peer to Peer Foundation for re-posting my piece On Creating Communities

    And look for more coming there on:

    The Individually-controlled/Commons-dedicated Account*

    A self-supporting , Commons-owned neutral network of accounts for both political and charitable monetary contribution… which for fundamental reasons of scale must allow a viable micro-transaction (think x-box points for action in the Commons). The resultant network catalyzes additional functionality for co-ordination of other ‘social energy’ utilization. (If desired, It’s also the most neutral and ultimately politically viable method for the public finance of elections.)

    Ayn Rand & Alan Greenspan: The Altruism Fly in the Objectivist Ointment

    Personal Democracy: Disruption as an Enlightenment Essential

    Maybe I’m wrong… but it’s time to try something constructive. You won’t get solutions coming from the ‘powers-that-be’.

    1. Maju

      Tom: altruism is nothing but intelligent egoism. A sensible person living in society knows that alone he/she is weak, so there is a strong reward to cooperate, at least up to a point. Altruism is not sacrificing yourself for others (only) altruism is sacrificing a bit for a greater good, not in an abstract moral sense but in a pragmatic egoist sense. This is so basic that it’s hard-wired to a great (albeit surely variable) extent in our genes in the vast majority. The remainder pure egoists (product of dynamic equilibrium, I presume) should probably be considered psychopathic.

      However we live now in a psychopathic society where psychopathic behavior is rewarded and social, civic one is punished. This society is advanced Capitalism, the society of “greed is good”, sensibility and consciousness is for “losers”. It’s a sick doomed society in desperate of a good radical therapy, because no society can stand only on pure egoists’ short-sightedness.

  19. charley

    What passes for a “left” shares all the assumptions the mainstream. How is this to be compared to the left of the 19th Century who not only question the existing political arrangement, but also its premises.

    See, for instance, the preoccupation with the money fetish, which forms the basis of all economic policy. “Left”, right and middle each have their idea of how money should be manipulated by policy, but there is no social movement that questions money itself…

    Start that movement, and you will have a left again. I would suggest you begin by reading “Non-financial Economics” by Eugene J. McCarthy, William McGaughey

    Here: http://www.amazon.ca/Nonfinancial-Economics-Case-Shorter-Hours/dp/0275925145

  20. sean

    Far left idealogy was bought off through state sponsored quangos here in Europe and I believe a similar pattern has emerged in the US.
    Radical left wing causes such as open border immigration were financed through Quangos by taxpayers.
    Radical right wing idealogy (Crony capitalists) have massive state transfers re bank bailouts ,globalisation where western manufacturing has been gutted and sent eastwards,etc.

    Those in the middle classes who opposed the above were demonised as racists,reactionaries and anti business,marxists etc.
    In other words the victims of radical left and right wing policies,the middle classes are being victimised a second time.

    The key thing is that state power was aligned with those promoting the above idealogies thereby allowing fascist government which is both an amalgam of the extreme left and extreme right.
    The Tea party is criticised as irrational and right wing.Perhaps it is because it is reacting against the left and the right that it appears inarticulate and irrational.

    1. Maju

      “Radical left wing causes such as open border immigration”…

      I wouldn’t say that is a “radical left” cause but rather a demand by Capital, which needs cheap and fragile exploitable workers. Of course the left in general is supportive of the rights of immigrants because of several reasons: (1) humanism and (2) the need for all workers to play by the same rules, not two tiers. So, if there are immigrants (and there are), they must be legal and have similar rights as natives because otherwise the system pits subgroups of workers against each other. It’s the same objective reason to be against racism or globalization (by which Capital is allowed to emigrate to cheaper and poorly regulated countries without paying a penalty for it). Additionally there are reasons of humanism and humanitarianism but there are objective reasons as well.

      However the far right plays with this contradiction, one created and used by Capital, and does it in the sense most desired by Capital: pitting workers against each other on whatever divide, be it race, nationality, gender… So beware!

  21. orotango

    how about this explanation for why things aren’t working as some on this board would like:

    the far-left agenda embraced by most of the commenters on this board might be supported by about 5% of the population. at most. that is why you can’t get control of the government via the ballot box, and that is why you can’t get any momentum behind any other methods.

    1. charley

      A woman’s right to chose need be supported by no one but herself, and it is not subject to one person one vote. Why “the left” should limits its options to polling data is quite confusing to me.

      The politics of the left must be anti-political.

    2. charley

      Which is to say, if the “politics of the left” is the liberation of the individual from the organs of hierarchy and social domination, then government itself is also the enemy, not the means.

    3. Maju

      An active and organized 5% can be enough to make some noise and put some pressure. While it would not be enough to make a revolution, it would at least help in keeping some balance. Small actors with an agenda of reason and social justice can do a lot – and they can grow as well from those basis.

      But the lack of such force leaves the people in general at the mercy of the only organized forces: Big Capital and their ideological associates. And that is what is happening now and is no good because there is no balance.

      It seems that Rupert Murdoch claimed once that “there is indeed a class war and we are winning it”. That means that the people, the working class is losing it. And they (we) are losing it because of lack of organization. Organized workers are very powerful potentially, disorganized ones are just disposable pawns in the hands of the corporations and their owners.

      This is not even ideology: it is objective needs and means to have such needs satisfied. Ideology is renouncing to fight for your legitimate and necessary demands because it’s leftist or whatever other wording you want to use.

      People need jobs, need decent salaries, free healthcare and education and cheap homes. I’d dare say that even a viable Capitalism needs that (because of the need for a healthy demand, which can only be sustained by a working class with some money in their pockets, something that old-school capitalists like Ford understood well). Regardless, it is something that people need, under whichever system, and what people need to fight for. And under such pressure you can fight or accept the destiny that others have conceived for you sheepishly, even if it means death, misery and marginality.

      However now people is not used to fight, they are used to have “all” easily (credit bubble), so they will need some time to understand and react. But I’m sure they will eventually because they are offered no alternatives.

    4. lambert strether

      You can always tell from the language, can’t you? (Le style c’est l’homme même)

      A phrase like “far left agenda” is one such “tell.”

      If there is such a thing as the “far left agenda,” could somebody put up the link to it?

      Indeed, if one reads this thread, you’ll see that “the left” (taking some subset of the commenters here as a proxy for that rather ill-defined agenda) is marked by searching and questing, rather than an “agenda.” And so it is, I would argue, at least in the blogosphere, when one subtracts the partisan outfits like Kos and so forth.

      If we ask Gene Kranz’s famous question in Apollo 13 — “Let’s look at this thing from a… um, from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” the answer is by no means evident, let alone as self-evident as it would be if there were an agenda.

    5. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you are part of the problem. “Far left agenda’? Only 5% support it? Really?

      Go to Links today, it has a poll where 92% of the respondents preferred a Sweden type income distribution. 92% is about as high a number as you ever see in polls, it comes close to unanimity. There is also very broad based support for keeping Social Security and Medicare, even if that means increasing taxes.

      1. angrylefty

        Remember that the public option also polled very well during the HIR debate and WAS NEVER EVEN BROUGHT UP.

  22. kstills


    I didn’t realize that this site was as far left as it was.

    Not that it matters, the commentary and the analysis are spot on most times, so the readership is of no consequence to my visiting.

    You ask why there isn’t a response to ‘right wing’ organization by the left?

    Because you all failed.

    Your ideas of social equality, manifested through Federal Government spending programs, have bankrupted the country.

    And before you all go into a tizzy, the Republicans were running the same game under a different banner the entire time.

    I came to this site for answers to why the financial crisis occurred. And over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate just how complicit both parties have been in destroying the economic base of the country. I no longer see this as a left-right issue, I see this as a referendum on fiscal and monetary policy.

    Because without a sane and rational policy in those areas, we are in fact doomed.

    Let’s baseline what the country needs. And I submit that what everyone should agree on is that running huge deficits and allowing the Fed to destroy the dollar are counterproductive to the wishes of both progressives and conservatives. So whomever you elect, they should be fiscally conservative.

    Allowing the Federal Government to revert back to a pre-FDR size means that we all, in our respective states, are then allowed to decide for ourselves how we want our kids educated, how we want to handle gay marriage, how we want to pay for our roads and bridges etc. Enough of the top down social policy initiatives that do nothing more the launder money through a huge and growing Federal Government.

    Take back your country by taking back it’s checkbook and your own communties.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘I no longer see this as a left-right issue.’

      Thank you. Left/right is just an obsolete sandbox for ideologues to play in.

      Plutocrats look on with amusement as their human livestock butt heads over diversionary, polarizing issues endlessly served up by their media organs.

    2. DownSouth

      I just got back from my first visit to Washington DC, and if one takes in the sights there, including the Smithsonian Museum of American History, one learns that this controversy has been with us for a long time. We’ve been arguing over a strong federal government vs. a weak confederacy since the inception of the republic. It occupied the minds and thoughts of the Founding Fathers. We fought a civil war over it. And, as you amply demonstrate, the controversy is still with us.

    3. chicago dyke

      while i am glad you have come to understand the flaws in the “left/right” formulation, your solutions are patently unworkable right now. for one thing, i don’t want gays in MS to have to suffer religious intolerance and hatred (possibly even to death) just because people like you believe in states rights over human rights. and then there’s the problem of state budgets- right now and in the foreseeable future. ave you looked at a state budget lately? if the federal govt were to magically disappear tomorrow, most states would collapse in abject financial disaster and millions would die. i certainly am guilty of my own pie in the sky daydreaming about “what should happen when i’m queen of the world,” but i don’t ignore the fact that if i had my way, some people would suffer. now, in my fantasy it would be the elites who suffer. but in yours, the poor, minorities, the old and the sick would suffer in much greater amounts than they do now. the New Deal worked, and it is its destruction that has brought us to where we are now, not its weight.

      1. DownSouth

        I copied these FDR quotes from his memorial in Washington DC, and thought they help make your point:

        • I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.

        • In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice, the path of faith, the path of hope and the path of love toward our fellow man.

        • No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally it is the greatest menance to our social order.

        • Among American citizens there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races.

        • I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust.

        • The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

        • We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.

        1. MillySwidger

          Some excerpts from Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt, pp.221-224)

          **Accordingly, the first task is to remind ourselves of the achievements of the 20th century, along with the likely consequences of a heedless rush to dismantle them.**

          **We take for granted the institutions, legislations, services and rights that we have inherited from the great age of 20th century reform. It is time to remind ourselves that all of these were utterly inconceivable as recently as 1929. We are the fortunate beneficiaries of a transformation whose scale and impact was unprecedented. There is much to defend.**

          **We do not typically associate “the Left” with caution. In the political imaginary of Western culture, ‘left’ denotes radical destructive and innovatory. But in truth there is a close relationship between progressive institutions and a spirit of prudence. The democratic Left has often been motivated by a sense of loss: sometimes of idealized pasts, sometimes of moral interests ruthlessly overridden by private advantage. It is doctrinaire market liberals who for the past two centuries have embraced the relentlessly optimistic view that all economic change is for the better.**

          **It is the Right that has inherited the ambitious modernist urge to destroy and innovate in the name of a universal project.**

          **It is difficult for young people to appreciate just what life was like before them. But if we cannot rise to the level of a justificatory narrative – if we lack the will to theorize our better instincts – then let us at least recall the well-documented cost of abandoning them.**

          **We need to apologize a little less for past shortcomings and speak more assertively of achievements.**

    4. Doug Terpstra

      By “allowing the Federal Government to revert back to a pre-FDR” I assume you mean avoiding all that New Deal commonwealth mess: the Tennessee Valley authority, dams, and rural electrification, national parks development, highways, sidewalks, trails, bridges, libraries, and schools. Indeed, we should have simply allowed crony capitalism to collapse of its own excess.

      This time we have a chance to get it right. We’ve finally disempowered unions, outsourced jobs, repealed Glass-Steagall, captured the SEC, the FDA, the CFTC, the MMS, the FEC, the FCC, and even PBC (finally Moyers is gone!). Next we can privatize public education, the interstates, all roads and bridges (toll booths everywhere even for the homeless), and finally, the only New Deal travesty left blocking the path to good old conservative feudalism—Social Security.

      Until that happens this whole rotten system will continue wobbling along on band-aids and crutches, food stamps, and und unemplyments benefits. I say end it all and let Darwin sort it out.

      Oh, but the only thing we can’t touch, of course, is our military garrison and skynet, which consumes fully half of our federal budget and upon which the sun never sets: 900 bases in 120 countries around the globe and in space, making the world safe for feudalism. Sorry, I guess I’m a little confused.

      1. tar, etc.

        Seeing the same out Republicans with a new Contract on America is like Groundhog Day. Right back to cut taxes, more free trade and support the troops! No recognition of their role in creating the current mess.

        How far post-Reagan conservatives have strayed from even Goldwater. The old Republicans I knew wanted a manageable government, wanted to preserve individual freedom, and believed in the separation of church (and synagog) and state. Not anymore! It’s like the Dems want centralized government and the Repos want privatized government, but they both want a government that consumes the citizenry.

        So the Republican base was disillusioned over Bush, and now the Democratic base is disillusioned over Obama, and we waffle back and forth every eight years like amnesiacs. The earnest say we need better candidates and blame the voters for being stupid, but that’s blaming the victim. Ask the Ross Perot party that worked so earnestly how it worked out. Or ask the majority now calling themselves “independent” if that new label will bring about an independent president. Nope, that disaffection will be co-opted as surely as the tea party was.

    5. gf

      Excuse me but it is the neo-liberal policies of the last 30 years that are the failure. FDR saved your vaunted “capitalism” in the first place. Fiscal conservatism WILL be the destruction of this country. Fiscal conservatism is BS and propaganda, I just can not figure out why people that say they love America still believe this stuff.

      How will cutting education, health and infrastructure spending in the country lead to wealth defies the imagination. Listen, this is basic economics, if you cut these you cut future productive economic capacity. There is no way around it.

      Fiscal conservationism is a sclerotic english speaking disease. Look at the evidence- Ireland, Greece are both in crisis but they have the EURO as an excuse. Watch us and the UK self immolate if we follow the austerity/conservative path.

      Maybe the left should just let the right implement all that they want? The sooner we hit bottom perhaps the better. The problem is the devastation that this would cause would be immense. Too bad we could not just divide the country down the middle and let the conservatives destroy themselves and leave us in peace.

  23. Justicia

    Progressive social change has come from social movements (women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights) led by people willing to confront power through civil disobedience and organized resistance. Great leaders like Mother Jones, Emmeline Pankhurst and Rosa Parks inspired others by their action. And their actions fell on fertile ground that had been prepared both intellectually and socially through networks of like-minded people.

    Nowhere do I see the kind of passionate determination bred of deep conviction from today’s leaders that can inspire others, nor is there the disciplined organizing to take that spark and turn it into prairie fire.

  24. The humanity

    Diversion of the lower classes into false politics so their energies are dissapated in pointless disagreements and activities that keep them from looking or seeing behind the curtain.

    Massive statist propaganda disguised as news and entertainment which suppresses, diverts, distorts and derides as necessary to frame and constrain debate at all levels.

    Pervasive monitoring of the public and punitive sanctions on selected dissidents to ensure no nascent movements coalesce. Those who express non-sanctioned anger risk much.

    Like the Church after the Albigensian Crusades and the Institutionalism of the Inquisition, the ruling classes have again developed and deployed a broad range of mechanisms to divert, co-opt and suppress potential resistance by the rest of society.

    This is why there is currently no political outlet for the ‘left’.

  25. poopyjim

    I believe the primary reason for a lack of a real movement on the left is conformity: culturally ingrained conformity. Conformity is a hallmark characteristic of today’s youth. I’m 28, and amongst my friends I am the only one who is seriously fucking pissed. The only others I find who are seriously fucking pissed are here on the Internet.

    I’ve seen the same type of conformity, except perhaps even worse, in the younger college-age kids. Today’s youth really is just all about reality TV and video games.

  26. Jim Haygood

    ‘Why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?’

    The left is effortlessly co-opted by an establishment — the Democratic Party, the New York Times, corpgov test-tube candidates like Obama — which is not liberal in any sense.

    Marx’s prediction came true for the left — public education (which the left loves) sold it the rope to hang itself, by extinguishing independent thought. Thus the lemming-like surge toward O’Bomba in 2008, despite his plain warnings in August 2008 that he planned to amp up the level of blood sacrifices in Afghanistan.

    ‘Progressivism’ was social malware which carried the seeds of its own destruction, particularly in its fatal error of implementing a permanent system of war finance — the Federal Reserve.

    There is no such thing as liberal progressivism in a military empire with a permanent, state-sanctioned political duopoly.

  27. Namazu

    Simple numbers game:

    1) The unions have been tactically bought off (I’d say good riddance, but that’s for lefties to decide)

    2) Bourgeois liberals have been permanently bought off: their worldview differs from that of bourgeois conservatives mainly on a few social issues like abortion

    3) Hope/changers are paralyzed for the time being: true love dies hard, so their support for Obama is a barrier to active dissent

    4) Focused anger requires a sharper understanding of where we are and who’s responsible. Even many conservatives would agree with much of the diagnosis of (say) Arianna Huffington or Jane Hamsher, but the country is still catching up intellectually. After the “unexpected” bursting of a 30-year credit bubble, this should not be a surprise.

  28. latte

    I say I’m ‘leftist’ (what does this mean, i’ll have to specify), but I’m not not rightest. (negating the negation); i’m not really socialist but i’m not not socialist (perhaps again the term lacks sufficient precision for my needs). similarly i’m not ‘capitalist’ but i’m not not that either.

    analysis: As OP mentioned, the left /was/ feared a long time ago. In the meantime, it’s also been completely destroyed, infiltrated, subverted, etc to the point of being only a shadow of a parody of its former self, let alone what it probably would have matured and developed to, left to its own devices and a reasonably favorable political environment.
    I’m guessing that most of the relevant history is lost and/or secret. Much of it is tied up with the “CultureWars”, but a lot of that was and is a secret war. I think, of course have no way of knowing… Reminescent of the supposed (published) CIA involvement in the postwar European art world for political/ideological gain.
    Again though, this isn’t really about a ‘left’ in the left/right binary paradigm, it’s about people actually thinking rather than regurgitating propaganda, and of course this can come from anywhere. However, in a post-1984 era, in this weird postmodern fascist/totalitarian/idiocratic amalgam, with a million secret Stasi on counter-intel or maybe counter-subversion patrol, or maybe just out screwing around like Secret Police as a global culture, and likely millions more knowingly or unknowingly collaborating, and the remaining millions apathetically and/or nihilistically collaborating, … comprehensive and sustained thinking doesn’t happen much. Simplifying greatly, we live in an advanced Control society, and such arrangement will tend to select for idiots, and has; which is why the movie Idiocracy (which I’ve never watched except for excerpts) while flawed conceptually on some important fronts is still probably the most serious and important political movie to come out in the last decade, hysterically ironic given its complete lack of such pretension.

    All of which may or may not answer your question about the ‘left’ and its “outlets for anger”. What exactly is the point of an “outlet for anger” dear? Sounds a bit, um, childish, but of course that extends a habit of projecting flaws onto indefensible scapegoats, in this case the entire class of children. Replace “outlets for anger” with “power & intelligence” and I think it might mean something more substantial. In the present context we could think of political power and the collective intelligence that is associated with a vibrant public discourse.
    When I was growing up I thought ‘left’ meant intelligent, Liberal(!), and active, (implying a fourth, hidden condition: happy). There are NO policy or even philosophical commitments that stand above the Critique. The entire thing is essentially joyful and libertine perspicacity.

    “Outlets for anger” are what you give insane monkeys to keep them from destroying their cages. Like some sadistic villain, worried about the emotional status of its hapless victim.

    Obviously I don’t engage much at all in contemporary partisan politics, as they are called. The last mainstream publication I could stomach was the Financial Times, and that wasn’t always easy. NYT? Forget it. Television news? LOL. DailyKos is bs. TPM is bs like WWF politics… (It’s like the secret villain in the bunker bureaucracy realized they needed a diversion for people who insisted on paying more attention to politics than to organized sporting events, so they created an entire little ecosystem which spewed out simulacra of politics turned INTO an organized sporting event. Brilliant. )

    But of course I’m very politically engaged, almost certainly too much so for my own good. I’m aware of the Tea movement, with some amusement, but don’t follow it. I really like good tea though, and I think tea parties are a fabulous idea, provided that they are organized according to my specs. The tea must be really really good tea. And there should be other exotic herbs and stuff like that. It should start around brunchtime and people should bring their f-ing cellos, get tea’d up, and play music and argue politics. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a good tea party. In that sense these so-called liberals don’t need a counter to the Tea Party, they just need to explore the concept Tea Party itself more rigorously, empirically as it were.

  29. Brighton

    Wow. Just started tuning in, Yves, and this is a great site. I also just started watching Max Keiser, and I am impressed with him and RT in general. Great posts here, Max.

    To address the original post, IMHO, Obama has spent his time in office placating the Teabaggers while completely dissing liberals. Here is my piece on the Tea Party getting everything it wants from BO while he ignores the Greens: http://brighton-towne.blogspot.com/2010/09/tea-party-v-green-party.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FKGpTb+%28Dolphin+Kazoo%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

    Citizen Radio is a great little angry podcast that is blowing up right now –
    http://www.wearecitizenradio.com It’s nice to hear liberals swear!

    As far as Socialism goes, most Americans don’t know what it means and reflexively reject any discussion of its merits. Sorry to disappoint some posters here, but It is not dead. “Recession? Bank crashes? World financial crisis? Told you so!” – Karl Marx

    Serioously, if communism were no longer a threat, why would our government be playing international whack-a-mole against every little socialist regime that shows promise? Zelaya, Chavez, Beuller, anyone? All the while, we are falling behind Sweden, Denmark and France in quality of life measures.

    We have suffered in the US from our refusal to discuss Voldemort – I mean socialism. We have all been propagandized, and I am NOT a conspiracy theorist who uses the word propaganda ever. Max is right that we need a free uncensored Internet for democracy to survive.

    Socialism has not ‘failed’ – there is a long history of fluctuations in the continuum between oligarchic economic management (royalism) and collectivism. We are now and will always be somewhere on that continuum. The divide between left and right is much more about becoming more like Sweden than Stalin. The right sees this more clearly and has become adept at protecting its interests. They argue Stalin but they fear Sweden.

    Again, love this blog and Max Keiser on RussiaToday. (My 2 favorite sources for news are RT and Al Jazeera – sad!)

    1. gf

      Very good points especially about them trying to crush all other forms of economics. They do not want to see any models that are successful otherwise the jig is up. That is likely why they are so painstaking and thorough in routing out anything but mono-culture whether it be different economic models or agribusiness or financial systems.

  30. doom

    They’re not very angry but these days arguing for the rule of law makes you the “hard left,” so they’re pretty subversive. They’re blacked out of the media, except for sentimental features that never mention the authorizing instruments. Still, treaty law requires the government to address these groups’ complaints in a public, international forum that it can’t control.

  31. jest

    First off, we are giving the teabaggers far too much credit. (I’m assuming that we are talking about the rise of the teabaggers vs. a lack of a response on the left, which is implicit in the argument.) People act as if that thing sprang fully formed from Zeus’s head in a few months. At least that is what the media narrative is. In reality, it took years for those idiots to coalesce:

    1. The failure & betrayal by the previous sitting president
    2. Mired deep in unpopular war(s)
    3. The loss of congress in 2006
    4. Rising sympathy of libertarian/hard money views b/c of high inflation (see ron paul & ensuing presidential bid)
    5. The nomination of a *moderate* republican (HORRORS!) to the 2008 ticket, whom far right conservatives & libertarians both disliked or hated outright
    5a. Watching said moderate crawl into the fetal position & suck his thumb during the GFC, as he got beat by a black guy (HORRORS!!^100) whose name rhymes with Osama
    6. Faux News media operation running 24-7
    7. And even after all that, it still took hundreds of millions in front money from the Kochs & Armey to get the ball moving.

    In other words, it took years for this to build. In fact, the 2006 & 2008 election swings took similar paths, and were outgrowths of leftist anti-war sentiment beginning in 2003. So if you look at it from this perspective, progressives are right on schedule:

    #1 & #2 are in the bag.
    #3 is a distinct possibility in a few months.
    Krugman, DeLong, and others are leaders in a movement to push the FDR-esque flip-side argument to #4, which is slowly gaining more sympathy.
    Obama/Emmanuel/Gibbs/Axelrod are quickly becoming #5.
    Left media, i.e. #6, is starting to get more influential (Air America gave us Maddow, & Sen. Franken. Stewart & Colbert are hosting rallies in October. And though most of MSNBC is *horrifically* centrist, Ed Schultz is helping with the One Nation Rally next week)

    All of this is shaping up to a progressive rebel yell in a year or two. If history is any guide, it’s just a matter of time, money, and a catalyst. I don’t buy the narrative that progressives are dispirited; everyone I know is pretty damn pissed off, and that anger will only spread & intensify.

    I think we just need patience. These things are cyclical, and it’s only a matter of time before the left wave crest reappears.

  32. JTM

    Follow the money!! The “outlets” on the right are contrived and lavishly funded by the Kochs, et al., to promote anti-government ideology and keep their taxes low. No such bank-rolling for the left.

  33. Chucky

    “In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?”

    Two words. Barack. Obama.

    Obama ran clearly to the right of the Democratic primary field in 2007 and 2008, yet still netted the most support of Democratic activists. With heavy activist support and the primary votes of Independent voters, Obama was able to secure the nomination despite decisively losing the primary vote among registered Democrats.

    Game over.

    Ben Smith had a smart observation a month back about how the mood of pretty much everyone in the White House is that they hold their positions despite the Democratic Party, not because of it.

    Obama as a national political figure has defined himself very much in opposition to the Democratic Party consensus. Obama’s political DNA and political is all about his ability to keep the left quiet.

    The left will remain unable to organize as long as Obama remains in office.

    Historically, it’s very similar to the dynamics in 1976, where Jimmy Carter ran to the right of the primary field, yet still collected the nomination. You can look up the inability of lefty anger to mobilize during the ’76 to ’80 period. Lefty anger is simply unable to organize under such dynamics.

    It’s ironic, depressing, and worthy of conspiracy theories that the two great progressive Congresses of the post-LBJ era, 1977-78 and 2009-10, were both presided over by nominally Democratic Presidents who were very much interested in keeping those progressive Congresses from doing what was in the realm of the possible.

    But no need to worry. I’m sure we’re due for another great progressive Congress around 2030 or 2040, and maybe we’ll get the Presidential nomination process done correctly that time.

    1. Mondo


      I agree with you, and would like to add that the right denouncing Obama as pursuing “leftist” or “socialist” politics also has the effect of creating solidarity between progressives and Obama since they are both under attack from the same direction.

      Some people look only at the label (or maybe still believe what Obama told them two years ago he would do), and not at the substance. Therefore some have a problem attacking Obama from the left for fear of playing into the rights’ hands, a problem that the right doesn’t have, obviously. So I guess the first step would need to successfully expose the extent to which the actions of the Obama government don’t have anything to do with “progressivism” but rather with corporatism. You can of course argue that evidencs to that effect can be found in any number on the places on the web, the challenge is however to get the message out to the broader public, or at least have progressives understand that it doesn’t make sense to support a continuation of the current government policies. That is a sloooow process.

      Then again, a prerequisite also is a coherent vision which is clearly lacking currently. There is any number of government actions that go precisely in the wrong direction currently, but how do you create a message that is convincingly making a counter-statement ? I happen to think that this message should and could stay away as far as possible from any left-right discussion because this really isn’t about left or right at all. It is all about pursuing sensible policies that strenghten rather than weaken individual liberties and pursuit of happiness, which in some cases necessitates that people join forces because they don’t stand a chance otherwise.

      One may call this Utopia, not least because the representatives of the status quo (aka the kleptocrats) have become ever more effective in squashing any such development over the last decades. However, I also think that the kleptocrats don’t know when to stop, and may yet create the conditions for a major backlash.

  34. bob mcmanus

    Look, the Social Theorists, Marxians, Post-Structuralists etc have been working on and arguing about this since 1970. Some Anglo-American names Frederic Jameson, Terry Eagleton, Perry Anderson, David Harvey. The French thinkers are innumerable.

    Here’s a link to an August 4th 2010 blog discussion.



    “If the ideas of a ruling class were once the dominant (or hegemonic) ideology of bourgeois society, the advanced capitalist countries today are now a field of stylistic and discursive heterogeneity without a norm. Faceless masters continue to inflect the economic strategies which constrain our existences, but they no longer need to impose their speech (or are henceforth unable to); and the postliteracy of the late capitalist world reflects not only the absence of any great collective project but also the unavailability of the older national language itself.”

    Perry Anderson

    “In psychological terms, we may say that as a service economy we are henceforth so far removed from the realities of production and work that we inhabit a dream world of artificial stimuli and televised experience: never in any previous civilization have the great metaphysical preoccupations, the fundamental questions of being and of the meaning of life, seemed so utterly remote and pointless.”

    These are only examples, a taste. There is an entire literature about the disappearance of an effective economic left. It is mostly Euro-influenced, and part of the problem is that lack of interplay between the Continental Hegelian and US-UK empirical traditions means very little, AFAIK, of postmodern thought has made it into our economics.

  35. CMike


    You’ve been pretty effectively brain-washed. Go back to pre-FDR sized government? The America that existed immediately before the FDR administration was in a deep economic depression, the government was on the brink of being overthrown by leftist radicals or the reactionary right and here you are claiming that’s the society to which we should be returning.

    Next you’ll tell us everything went into the crapper when the Federal Reserve was set-up, that we should go back to the golden days of small government and, lookee here, a gold backed currency. Let’s see, from 1873 to 1879 depression; from 1882 to 1885 recession; a thirteen month recession beginning in May, 1887; a ten month recession beginning in July, 1890; back to a full-blown depression beginning early in 1893 with its double dip in December, 1895; then an 18 month recession beginning in June, 1899; the 23 month recession that started in September, 1902; followed by the Panic of 1907 and the thirteen month recession it spawned dating from May of that year.

    That last one’s the one that ruined everything. Things were going along so swimmingly in small government, social serviceless America right up until those big government types set up the Federal Reserve. Yeah, right.

    1. eightnine2718281828mu5

      This is exactly right; the Tea Party jackasses need to explain why the 19th century was so great.

      They act like small government has never been tried; we have over a century of data that show otherwise.

  36. chicago dyke

    Yves, i want to compliment you for the very high quality of readers you have here. i’m embarrassed to admit that while i’ve read your work for years, i have never dived into the comments before and i’m a commenting junkie of the Old School (politically since 99). these are some of the most thoughtful and intelligent comments on a single post i’ve read in a long time. kudos to you all for also avoiding the plague poisoning other blogs these days: personal and childish attacks.

    nika mostly spoke for me on the question of the post, and the only thing i can think to add that hasn’t been said pertains to what i think of as The Drugging of America. dangerous animals that zoos want to preserve are drugged occasionally, and similarly, american democracy has been drugged into submission by neofascist (ie, corporatist) elites. they have studied WWII and realized how much easier it is to have a neofascist state with an all volunteer imperial army and a passive, addicted populace at home.

    of course, i’m not (only) talking about illegal drugs, although there is a huge part of the answer to your question. who are the natural leaders of the left? the most poor, the young and passionate, people who have been victimized by the state in a very personal sense. African Americans brought us the great change of the civil rights period, and shortly after that a plague of addictive drugs flooded our communities. and shortly after that, we got the War on (some) Drugs and skyrocketing incarceration rates for men of color. similarly, genuine and unselfish yet sensitive older liberals who would perhaps want to do more to affect the social order (women) consume happy/mood “enhancing” drugs on the order of one third of the adult female population here. young people today are assaulted with a barrage of drugs from the moment of birth. children were never medicated for being children, when i was in kindergarten. today it is a shocking indictment of our educational system, the number of “hyperactive” kids for whom the first response to nonconformist behavior is medication. being on drugs from early in life makes a lot of being and acting human much, much harder. i also consider the media stream, which not only is the very essence of advanced propaganda, but the “participatory” elements to it. like this! look at the little mouse, punching the button again and again for the cheese. look at the little human, pressing the keys on the glowing box over and over for instant emotional gratification. people locked in a cycle of addictive/addicted behaviors rarely become successful activists or even critically functional members of society. the number of people addicted to any of what i just mentioned (and much i’ve left off) in this country is one essential fact that the elites keep deeply under wrap, but if you go looking for the data, it will frighten you.

    the Founders may have included a lot of drunks and pot smokers. but they didn’t have the pharmacopia of today to contend with, and i wonder at their success if they had had.

  37. lambert strether

    Oh, and I’m not sure that an “outlet for anger” is what the left, or indeed the country, needs.

    What we need is policy. I agree that anger at injustice, or even at not being able to get one’s case heard, is real and important, but as long as emotion rules, we’re totally vulnerable into being deked by the MOTU or the powers that be into useless demonstrations or worse, “provocations.”

    Again, “Let’s look at this thing from a… um, from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” We already know the spacecraft is in FAIL mode; and we’d better get pat the anger through to the acceptance part and get on to the engineering issues.

  38. Jim

    Wanting to have meaning in our lives is an issue that seems to transcend left/right thinking. It might be appropriate to begin here.

    The frank acknowledgement of this desire as a foundational dimension of an alternative political vision could help to provide the necessary individual motivation to start over.

    Would a broader spectrum of people start to listen if we make the attempt to link a portion of our increasing anger to a lack of meaning?

    The present institutional structure of power is helping to make our lives more and more meaningless. This, of course, would have to be traced out very specifically.

    Ideas about economc,political and cultural restructuring might then flow from such a premis.

  39. donna

    Progressives moved already on the national level. They bought into Obama; I kept trying to tell my even more progressive friends Obama was actually centrist but few listened.

    Most of us are working on more local levels now in city and state government elections. Those of us in California are more than tied up working at our state level and it’s a hard fight here.

    There’s more going on than you think, really.

    1. Petey

      “Most of us are working on more local levels now in city and state government elections.”

      That’s the correct answer.

      The problem is just that national organization is going to be incredibly difficult as long as the current President is in office.

  40. Farrar

    Some day we’ll wake up and discover that w e are on “The road” as described by Cormack McCarthy, except that it’s no longer just an allegory.

  41. bookit

    I actually think the post-Reagan Right has become something of a Potemkin village. Young people are disengaged, it’s true, but when they do get engaged, they realize that the America they see is full of crap. The politics of paranoia so beloved of Fox viewers is much more natural to people who grew up in the Cold War and 1960s than to people born in 1990. Middle age myself, I work at a state university and talk to college students every day. They are hardly Trotskyites, but they do find laughable what passes these days as “conservative.” On the cultural front, they are much more tolerant and secular than their parents, and economically, they are more pragmatic. They also are demographically far, far more diverse.

    Compare our situation to that of the late 1960s. Back then, to watch the news on TV was to assume that the country was lurching to the left. Hippies in VW vans and bandana-wearing peace protesters seemed to represent “the future,” and once unthinkable things like interracial marriage were becoming thinkable. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” also had not yet been declared a failure. Then in 1969, Kevin Phillips declared in “The Emerging Republican Majority” that contrary to appearances, the nation actually was about to move to the right. Beneath the froth the media so loved were deeper currents, like suburbanization and a rising individualist ideology, which actually were more important. I think something analogous is happening today. Beneath the froth of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are deeper currents, and they are making the country less white, less religious (or at least less conservatively religious), and less wealthy every day. Look at Ruy Teixeira’s work.

    My guess is that when today’s young Americans finally take power, they will neither want nor be able to take us back to FDR, but they may look a bit like the early 20th-century Progressives, liberal in outlook, still basically capitalist, but with a nuanced definition of “liberty” that does not recoil in horror at the thought that the government has a positive role to play. They will be better than the Baby Boomers at understanding that people are not complete masters of their own destinies and never have been, neither as individuals nor as a species, but they will seek to navigate the difference between being “connected,” which sees individuals in relationship to others and to the biosphere, and “collectivist,” which extinguishes the individual. In this sense, they’ll be a new Left, not a return to the old one.

    As for Beck and his crowd, I see them not as the start of a new “100-year plan,” but as the pathetic, reactionary remnants of an old one. What worries me is how badly they’ll trash the place on their way out.

  42. eric anderson

    Amen to the guy who reminded us that left/right is the wrong lens to be looking through. Right/wrong is the lens we ought to look through. In post-Christian society, there is much disagreement about which standard of moral right is correct. There is increasing doubt that any standard, other than a personal standard, is correct in the absolute sense.

    From my perspective, both left and right are making appeals to what is morally right, and both sides are sanctimonious and hypocritical in their own way.

    At its heart, the Tea Party isn’t even about a great moral cause. It’s about practicality. They perceive that we cannot continue on the present path. It is unworkable, unsustainable. The word “common sense” gets bandied about frequently. I wouldn’t know a better term except pragmatism. You cannot consume more than you produce year after year, decade after decade. The merry-go-round eventually stops. There must be an adjustment. This isn’t a moral principle so much as an acknowledgment of physical reality, something that those in Washington who pass stimulus bills that spend some ungodly sum (I’ve read estimates of $300K to $1 million) to create a single job) don’t seem to grasp.

    I believe that Americans had taken a vacation from pragmatism – which is their default philosophy — seduced by asset-inflated and debt-fueled consumption that seemingly would never end. Now they are looking for something more practical. If the left offers it, you might see enough interest from the general public to create an outlet for the left’s frustrations. If not, you will continue to fume and despair in small, powerless forums. I don’t think the left’s ideas are generally considered by most Americans as any more practical than the neo-liberal fascism we’re currently suffering from — which voters are about to attempt to reject at the polls in a month. And this is why the left has no outlet, why you are outnumbered two to one by conservatives.


  43. Ellen Farmer

    It’s all about electronics TV, gaming, facebook and prosac. My favorite line in The World According to Garp, was Garp would run through the neighborhood at night and would be saddened to see the glare of the TV through their windows, it meant they weren’t reading.

  44. t.p.n.

    The left as we know it is by and large co-opted by the non-profit complex. This structure contrains grass roots style activism, as it causes organizations to spend resources chasing money that comes from corporate donors through foundation grants and shaping up their programs to attract more money through “benchmarks”, and not mobilizing people into a program for change, liberal or radical. Most seasoned leaders have been co-opted into this superstructure of the left, in exchange for a paycheck. The rest are left with little money and little institutional expereince to produce a movement that is autonomous, mass based and effective, with the hope that they too may at least get a paycheck by mocing up into the non-profit superstucture.

    The Tea Party will die a similar death after the elections, and the wacko base will become more radical, but less organized, the objective of electing Republicans having been achieved. Think of the Tea Party as the right’s version of Naderites.

  45. Bernard

    i imagine there will be an incremental buildup towards change after the Republican finish off destroying America, with the Democrats helping destroy America at a slower pace, as they usually have. the amount of anger and upset former middle class idiots have will intensify once they wake up in poverty where they belong for following the “Slick” PR they have bought for over 30 years.

    it may not be the “left” that will be the “leader” of the angry upset losers that was once the middle class. enough of the “losers” will eventually coalesce into some sort of movement. kind of like the Tea Parties of today, except they will have more than one “focus” to be BSed on. otherwise, the MOTU will rule supreme. as they have for 30 years under Republican misrule.

    I’m a DFH and wont vote and hope Obama loses really, really, really, really bad. lol. i am unable online to veritably express my displeasure of having a Treasonous Leader, like Reagan on…. lol.

    im just hoping the Republicans take back the House so they can begin impeachment proceeding on Obama. that would be some solace for being the agent for the MOTU’s destruction of America/and/Republican payback for not being a “Real American.”

    oh how sweet it is. to see the Middle Class wake up would be nice. i may be dead before then though. it is those little thing that give hope its’ enduring legacy.
    Meanwhile, withdraw from the Kabuki game and let these nuts have at each other. they deserve what they created.

  46. Tim

    Increasingly the world is being governed by center right parties I think if you look closely there are only 6 or 7 OECD countries governed by the centre left. In the category of the centre right governed countries there are several countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and New Zealand which were once thought to be some of the most “left leaning” countries in OECD.
    Now to be fair the Nationals in NZ or the Conservatives in Canada are much different breeds than the US Republicans or for that matter the US Democrats. However while most centre right parties outside the US outside the US have accepted the welfare state in a way the Republicans haven’t most centre right parties are also resolutely corporatist. For example Toronto is by most traditional standards is a nothing financial center compared to NYC. Canadian hedge assets under management are less than $35 Billion whereas in New York the top 5 funds alone have over $100 Billion. However, the Conservatives in Canada along with the centrist Liberals who hold power at the provincial level in Ontario will toot the horn at even the slightest shift in financial services employment from NYC to Toronto to showcase their “pro business” policies against Obama and the Democrats implicitly “anti business” policies. This same thing is being repeated around the world and I suspect is having a negative influence in foreign investment into the US.

  47. EmilianoZ

    Many of us here are angry lefties. None of us here can afford to leave his/her day job and go into full-time organizing mode. On the right you have people like to Koch bros paying people just to do that.

    However, we are numerous. Maybe there are some yet undreamed of methods of political action that would allow each of us to spend a minimal amount of effort for an optimal impact. But I guess none of us here is an organizational genius. Frankly most of the time I’m just too tired from my day job to think about that. That’s the vicious circle of just trying to survive.

  48. Moebius

    The problem with the left is there is no coherent plan or even diagnosis of the problem on the table.

    While I still feel that the opportunity to get ahead through hard work and accomplishment is a foundational aspect our system THE PERSISTANCE OF WINNING HAS GOT TO END.

    I have been trying to figure out what has been going on ever since I saw the BS hedge funds collapse in 2007. The sense of betrayal I feel in the actions of both Bush and Obama is extreme.

    I was always a believer in the individualist creed and I rejoiced when Reagan said that government was the problem. But as I have looked around I have seen that it is the plight of the common man to have to constantly answer the following question, “What have you done for me lately?” And if an adequate answer is not forthcoming from the common man to the wealthy and powerful personal devastation will commence.

    The nature of money and how people and organizations deal with it is at the core of our current problems. What FDR did in the 1930’s in the creation of FDIC insurance and Social Security was a profound redistribution of power to the common man. FDIC insurance had the effect of putting the large amounts of money that the rich kept in first loss position if financial chaos erupted. I believe that it was this characteristic that kept the financial discipline for 40 years. Unfortunately, over the past 30 years this first loss position has been eroded and recklessness ensued ultimately resulting in the 2008 chaos and bailout.

    The monetary system needs to be redesigned for the 21st century. The principal that FDR was driving at with FDIC insurance for a LIMITED amount of money per individual needs to be reaffirmed. The communications and data processing capabilities that technology currently provide would no longer require middlemen between this government guaranteed money and the individual account holders.

    The current devastation that is visited upon individuals when they do not pay their debts needs to be relaxed. Repossesion of houses and cars has got to stop. Again, current communications and data processing provide an appropriate consequence for failure to pay debts. The full consequence for failure to pay should be easily accessed public record of failure to pay.

    How to reform the monetary system for larger organizations is an open question. I do feel that large amounts of idling capital needs to be taxed heavily to the point that it disappears in less than half a lifetime.

  49. Cathryn Mataga

    The American left was neutered by excessive
    Marijuana smoking back in the 70’s, and hasn’t
    come back since. You know, the deal, wake
    up, go on the internet, fume about the
    ‘Bush Tax cuts’ or some other issue. But
    then, why not smoke a relaxing marijuana
    cigarette, and then, well, “don’t worry, be
    happy.” This is where it all goes. :)

  50. Bernard

    one really interesting aside to reading the commenters is the lack of honesty the right represents when it comes to criticizing those who are “upset”. apparently we should all be obedient non-thinking sheep or otherwise we are “liberal, anti-American blah blah blah whatevers.

    that is so cute and explains why the Right stays so delusional. that Free lunch is what they have used to sell their BS and i can see why idiots and other non thinkers would follow the Republican/MOTU line. i know so many otherwise educated people who have bought the Republican bs for decades. Oh i too can be rich and clueless and hate-filled and step on those below me. what joy there is in being “idiots” in charge. Join in the R party and you get to be…… one of us!

    obviously, thinking is not a Republican value. and when you maintain control via the Republicans’ “American” way, dissent is not allowed. Makes perfect sense from a idiot’s point of view.
    real problem comes when thinking is allowed. thus the destruction of education, i.e. the anti-intellectualism that the Republican power structure relies on to keep in power. Seed beds of hate, Republicans call universities. as if there was any doubt as to why Republican hate “educated” people who can think. duh!!!

    wonder if these blinded sheep/”idiots” see the disconnect between using cars, electricity, modern medicine, airplanes, internet, i-phones et al. that would take thinking. lol. DUH!!!

    ah the wonders of Republican idiocracy. now that is “Real America.”

    i was always amazed at the illogic of Republicanism, not to mention the hatred, bigotry and fear at the core of “their way” afforded those ‘Socialists/ DFH’s et al not lucky enough to be an American idiot and believe such Republican Party tenets. and by the way, the Democrats are just a tad behind in their own irrelevancy. lol

    from an equal opportunity thinking non Democrat/Republican.

  51. Aristophon

    Here’s where I’m going in all this: the propaganda of the deed (so to speak), I intend to vote Green Party candidates in the General election here in Arkansas.

    At least in their Senate candidate they have a rational person with a rational agenda.

    So help me it’s the closest thing to what passes for left of center in this benighted political climate — thirty years ago it would have been deemed “center/moderate.”

    It’s my little way of helping put new ideas in the air. Yves, a long while back you had a line to the effect that policies came from ideas that were “in the air” if I recall correctly. It’s been a wonderment to me that the country hasn’t been re-examining what a mixed economy would really look like. What a miserable drought this has been in our climate of ideas.

    I know from my own little stint in a paid political campaign position, that both parties would take notice if enough people voted — not stayed home — but voted “none of the above” in the manner I plan to do.

  52. Paul Tioxon

    Yves, just when I think you are getting on my last nerve, you validate the true, the good and the beautiful that I see in you through this site and yr book. Of course the left is not represented. When Glenn Beck declares that the dem Senatorial candidate from Del, Chris Coons is a bearded Marxist, how can someone who wants to bring reason and science into the political discourse be taken for anything other than beyond the pale? The republicans, like the Czarist intelligence apparatus of yore, fabricates opposition and bank rolls the grass root tea party as a vocal majority of the American electorate rejecting a newly elected president. A president that just got 67 million votes all of a sudden is out of touch, by virtue of the health care reform that he ran on as a platform to get elected in the first place. And of course, that sea of humanity is forgotten to focus on a dozen or so screaming geriatrics at church basement meetings of legislators returning to their home district. Oh, the ground swell of the next American revolution! I’ve seen more middle aged people standing in line for Bruce Springsteen tickets than showed up for the so called angry groundswell. No, you don’t see Tom Brokaw or Diane Sawyer or even MSNBC doing in depth reports on the successful organizations of the left, like MoveOn. Or widely disseminating Chalmers Johnson or Galbraith. I am reading F Heyak’s road to serfdom, and even I can see how he is little more than a political propaganda tool plucked from intellectual obscurity and hoisted into full view of the American public by Readers Digest which condensed and published his scathing attacks on central planning. They then further condensed that into a nickel hand out, bulk purchase price, 1000 for $18. A million copies were sold of that hand out. Even CIA operative and Uber Anti Liberal, William F Buckley was given his own televised show for years and years on PBS broadcasting, the supposed in house media outlet of the avowed left wing of America. And now, FOX News, political porn for the right wing, promotes the events its says are news. Everyone else just stands around looking to Jon Stewart to make sense of it all. The media is too easily fooled by fake scandals, such as the Acorn fabrication, a republican dirty trick by the son of a republican US Attorney. No, the anger of the left is not regularly reported on, dissected, ruminated or kept in the lime light as much as Sarah and Bristol, as much as Glenn Beck, Rush and dozen or so media darlings, which all happen to be right wing propagandists. Laura Ingram, Ann Coulter, Hannity, Imus, no spin zone what’s his name. ON the radio, on cable, in the print media and broadcast networks, the tea party and anger at Obama and little else. Firedog Lake, Change.org, Pro Publica, the growing anti gas drilling movement in NY state and PA, these are real, but not regularly reported. Spied on by Homeland Security, but not reported on by the media outlets as much as astro turf tea parties funded by Koch, organized by Dick Armey and promoted by Fox. The vast right wing conspiracy, aka, American Capitalism, has called the shots for over a century, and even when it falls over half dead in public from a stroke, and takes down the social order with it, the bad guys are tax and spend liberals who voted to save capitalism, for a third time in 75 years. They should be glad that we don’t believe in rule or ruin, that we would rather have America alive, if not well, but alive to reinvent itself after its run as imperial warlord of planet earth.

  53. Chris Tiburon

    Often have wondered about this and have concluded that the common self interest of Americans, that sought expression in leftist, populist and rightist anger, has been replaced with the fragmented self interest of various artificial and divisive alleged ‘communities’ and the infectious personalization of values brought about by personal communications devices of all types, including
    the internet.

    These have atomized interests as personal
    self-expression. Consider the ability of Americans to pay to “vote” for some caterwauling singer on their cell phones as a symptom of the cheapening of the concept of voting.

    Artificially induced dissatisfaction with the self,
    fueled by marketers creating consumerism as a means to satisfy externally created and driven commercial needs
    has combined with politics to create a market for political ideas instead of a common self interest that we once had.

    The anger once channeled into specifics has been replaced with sloganeering and a line of products that are
    “supposed to do the job”, like the Obama presidency.

    Another thing is the the left no longer contains the implied threat of violence within it as does the right.
    This tends to galvanize the reaction to the right and
    lends it an air of anger rightly or wrongly.

    In your mind’s eye, what’s more likely?
    Armed SEIU workers?
    How about armed Teabaggers?

    Finally there is education. People immersed in years of
    formal education will debate and parse and discuss.
    Those with real world skills and less education will react and get angry.

    1. Externality

      More than the Right, the Left has also bought into the idea that strong emotions of any type are a form of mental illness. Most of the firebrand activists of the 1960s be labeled today as having Bipolar II, and medicated into quiescence. Psychiatry has replaced religion as the opiate of the masses.

      Big Pharma has aggressively pushed the idea that anyone who is depressed, angry, or agitated about current events needs psychotropic medication(s).

      After 9/11, television was flooded with ads claiming that anyone who was angry or depressed about the attacks should take Paxil, an SSRI antidepressant known for causing apathy and indifference to others.

      Around the invasion of Iraq, television was flooded with ads claiming that brief bouts of anger and agitation were a sign that one suffered from Bipolar II disorder, and needed anti-psychotic medications in addition to SSRIs. (“As your doctor if Abilify is right for you.”) These medications basically give patients a chemical lobotomy.

      If Martin Luther King were an activist today, would be welcomed by the Black community, or told by members of his congregation that his dreams and agitation were a sign that the needed to see a “mental health provider?” Big Pharma and the media would hope that the “enlightened” among his parish would do the second. (For the record, I am not stating that he was mentally ill, just that the corporatocracy has attempted to discredit his style of activism in that way. )

  54. Jim the Skeptic

    The Tea Party is to the right of the Republicans and the Communist party is to the left of the Democrats. Neither party will have any sustained success in this country. Only a Progressive party operating at the center between the major political parties can have any success. And the new party will be snuffed out when both parties move to the center.

    Our politics over the last 20 years have been about dividing middle class voters with social issues.

    The Republicans have been rabidly against any form of abortion. That issue has been used to bludgeon any opponent including some of their own. The Republicans have also been rabidly in favor of deregulation of business.

    The Republicans don’t like government unless it is enforcing their moral and ethical standards on the entire population. Abortion is a deeply personal issue which could have been left to the people involved. The system of regulation of business had served us well for over 50 years, there was no adequate reason for change.

    The Democrats have been rabidly protective of welfare programs, illegal immigration, and gay rights. By 1990 it was obvious that welfare programs had done harm, with one family on welfare for several generations and none of them had held jobs. (I understand that they were a tiny minority but how was that even possible?) Only a Republican Congress and a conservative southern Democrat President could change the system. Illegal immigration in the late 1980s was a defining issue and only a compromise granting amnesty to the 3 million illegals allowed a resolution of sorts. (Why were the Democrats so determined to protect an illegal minority?) In the early 1990s it was gays serving in the military and only the compromise of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ put a temporary end to the issue. Then came gay marriage.

    The Democrats protection of the two minority groups, gays and illegal immigrants, borders on Quixotic. We have no moral or legal obligation to allow unlimited immigration into this country and it should be a matter of principal that we will do nothing to encourage illegal immigration. The illegals should have been forced to return home by extremely harsh punishment of their employers. Gays are a minority who are protected by the same laws that protect the rest of us from crimes against our persons or property. Spending political capital on extending these minorities’ rights, distracts from more important problems and divides the Democratic party’s followers. There were more important issues which they should have been addressing, like the stagnant wages of the middle class. The US Supreme Court believes that corporations are a minority worthy of their protection. When will this fascination with minorities end?

    At this stage in our history the health of our economy is the paramount issue. We are headed toward lower living standards for the majority and incredible wealth for the top 1%. If the majority can not force it’s will on the minority top 1% then what is the point of our political exercise. Should every minority’s vote be counted twice to insure fairness? If the majority must provide special protections for any and all minorities then we will never be done with these special laws. Those laws protect but they also divide. Where will it end?

    How can any Progressive party come into existence while these sort of social issues are dominant?

    1. Chris Tiburon

      The Democrats are “good” on social issues.
      The GOP is “good” on economic issues.

      This serves to permanently divide the population by attracting people to one of the opposite poles and forcing them to compromise on the other as part of the party platform.

      Almost makes you wonder if the people funding these parties want this permanent division?

      I’m thinking that the solution to this might be proportional representation.

      1. Jim the Skeptic

        Sir, you have missed my point. On social issues they are both bad!

        And I would add that on issues with the economy they are both bad. The Democrats are “Tax and spend” and the Republicans are “Borrow and spend” which is even worse.

        But the social issues have been the most divisive and would make it very difficult for a Progressive party to form or survive.

        Imagine trying to lure the most liberal Republicans into a party which refused to recognize abortion as a important political issue. Imagine trying to lure the most conservative Democrats into a party which refused to recognize minority gays or illegal immigrants as a important political issue.


  55. Hugh

    Before the 2008 election, I stressed the need for a progressive party. The Democrats were not addressing our concerns and Obama, as most progressives acknowledged at the time, was not and never had been a progressive. I was told the important thing was to elect Obama and put an end to the bad days of the Bush era. Well, we can all see how well that turned out.

    There has been a lot of talk about how the left has been veal penned. But I don’t think it is understood how much of its organizations have been. The healthcare debate is a great example for this. You had large swathes of the traditionally liberal Democratic blogosphere like dkos and Huffington Post that were essentially in the bag for whatever the Democrats/Obama came up with. This also included HCAN, a veal pen creation put together by other veal pen groups, including unions.

    But beyond these, there were co-opted veal penned progressive groupings. These were the public option supporters, like firedoglake. The PO was never more than a contentless, read into it whatever you want, hook to keep the rubes quiet while the real sellout was going on.

    These were the positions of most of the liberal/progressive organizations and groups going in. Noticeably absent from all these was the only truly progressive program of single payer universal healthcare. This already exists in various forms in most of the industrialized world and delivers better outcomes at substantially lower prices. What is so interesting about this is that not only did Obama and the Democrats never put this on or anywhere near the table, neither did almost the whole of the organized left. Single payer proponents were ostracized, banned, and viciously attacked, not just by Obama and the Democrats, which was to be expected, but by this much larger veal pen of liberal Democrats and independent progressives.

    When it was all over, the public option was exposed as the PR sham it was, and had always been. Some progressive groups belatedly opposed the healthcare bill, but most did not. By then it didn’t matter anyway. It was a done deal. Yet to this day, most of the rancor of these groups remains directed at the single payer supporters, the only people in that whole sorry mess who got it right on both the policy and the politics that were going on.

    So what does this have to do with a new progressive party or populist movement on the left? Well, everything. All the liberal and progressive groups that could have done so much to create a real debate on healthcare yet did so much instead to suppress that debate are playing the same role here. dkos and Huffington Post could be powerful tools for organizing a populist progressive alternative to the two parties and the Tea party. But this would be to overlook that they operate as virtual adjuncts of the Democratic party. So their hostility to anything independent or third party is expectable.

    What is less expected, and actually quite pernicious, is how so many progressive blogs take a similar if not so obvious position. There the attitude, as I have often heard, is go out organize a third party, get it up and running, on the ballot, and start winning elections, and then, and only then, will we maybe come along.

    You have to understand these are the same groups that in 2006 and 2008 pushed hard the theme of “more and better Democrats” and eagerly sought out potential forward looking Democrats and organized for them. Many of those Democrats lost, done in by the Establishment Democratic machine, but even those that won without exception sold out their progressive supporters and turned their back on them at the earliest opportunity. Yet these groups, despite being burned and burned again, continue to concentrate on and favor Democrats. When it comes to backing actual progressives, people who won’t burn them or scuttle the progressive agenda, they vary between indifferent and hostile.

    So if you want to know why there is no populist alternative on the left, the answer is that huge chunks of the left continue to be controlled by the Democratic party, fairly overtly. Independent progressives are similarly dominated by Trojan Horse groups, progressive in name but Democratic in orientation, which suck all the air out of progressive organizing efforts. The result is that progressives are largely shut out, even on the left, even in those organizations that should be most supportive of their ideas, even among those that say they support those ideas.

    There are a few progressives who have rebelled and are trying to build new organizations. But it is hard. Look at it this way. There is a periphery between traditional Democrats and liberal Democrats. There is another between liberal Democrats and progressives, and there is yet another between veal pen progressives and true independent progressives. Progressives have a good message and good solutions, but it is difficult to get it to an audience in a recognizable form past all those veal pens.

    1. anon

      Thank you, Hugh. You expressed my concerns far more eloquently than I could have.

      In 2006, I volunteered many hours to elect a representative that was opposed by the Democratic Party because he was “unelectable” (i.e., not centrist enough). He won but, as you said, he soon turned his back on his progressive supporters and became a stalwart, mainstream Dem. The same thing happened with other candidates I gave money to.

      Most of my friends supported single payer and were frustrated that it was not a part of the health care debate. Yet most fell into line and are now defending Obama and the other Dems.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Great analysis, Hugh. But dare I say, this time it’s different? It sure feels different.

      LeeAnne said it well: “Obama’s greatest service to the American people is the end of any illusion a two-party system exists.” There’s enormous cynicism seething on both the left and right promising high volatility, fraught with pitfalls, yes, but also potential. Who knows, if regressives retake control of Congress (which I am perversely hoping for) and that happens to coincide with a renewed market contagion (nothing’s changed) or military disaster (no end anywhere in sight), then rapid change is possible, maybe even on the order of the collapse of the USSR. Even in darkness we should keep a candle lit and plenty of lamp oil at hand.

  56. Hugh

    I tried to load a comment on this subject, a few times. It did not appear. I then got a duplicate comment message. I made a small change at the beginning and then that comment too disappeared

  57. liamyoung

    If we really wanted to do something about the situation, we’d all cancel our cell phone contracts, cable, phone and other services, stop buying iPads/Android phones and build our own communications network.

    This would ensure two things:
    1. We’d never get cut off;
    2. We’d be able to shape the conversation about what’s happening in the world (and exclude a lot of the noise related to the ‘Tea Partiers’)

    Easy peasy.

  58. Max Keiser

    This is what left looks like.

    There is nothing like it in the States. Not even close. This is what should be happening in the U.S. under the banner of a true left wing opposition party.

    Never happen though; too much cheap gas, cheap stuff at Wal-Mart and cheap drugs.

    Read this and weep. This is about expanding the public’s domain and the common wealth, something the opposition should be fighting tooth and nail for.

    Internet regulators may face Swedish Waterloo


    1. LeeAnne

      Thanks for the link Max. I check in with you and Stacy regularly. You sound more like a home boy every day. I remember when New York men were the smartest, most insightful, took no shit from nobody, and enjoyed a good laugh on anything and everything.

      You bring back the old days for me. Hope you take that as the complement I mean it to be.

      Obama’s greatest service to the American people is the end of any allusion a two-party system exists. It wouldn’t have happened if a more skillful and experienced politician like Hillary had won the election.

      The king is dead; long live the king. Its the corporatocracy.

      1. LeeAnne

        of course, I mean to say

        Its the Corporatocracy, stupid.

        (just didn’t want anyone to misunderstand and take it as directed at any person)

  59. Debra

    It is difficult to spend a life resisting the status quo…
    People get tired. Discouraged.
    The only COHERENT place for the left is as an opposition party to the status quo.
    Once it gains power, well.. then it BECOMES THE STATUS QUO and.. STOPS BEING THE LEFT.
    This is an undeniable fact of human nature, I fear.

  60. Glen

    “In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?”

    Very good question. I have no good answer other than the fact that Obama and the DC Democrats really rolled us.

    The assumption always was that Clinton would have acted much more “FDR” except for the counterbalance in a Republican Congress, but there is no such excuse possible for Obama’s behaviour. Obama’s governing to the right of Reagan and most of the Democratic party is in denial or has tuned out.

    It’s past time for a third party.

  61. Publius

    There is no organized resistance for a variety of reasons, however the simplest way of presenting the issue is to rmind all of us that money is the mother’s milk of politics. When you look at a flowchart of funding to the American Left you see a far right confluence of interests funding the organizations. If the organizations are too radical for the men who buy them, they lose that money.

    Obama in a sense is a perfect example of how the Left operates. The Left embraced him, fought for him, wept in delight all the while not paying any attention to any evidence that conflicted with the propaganda. Single issue causes and identity politics and lovely protests that go nowhere are what we see from funded Left that is not militant. Of course stepping back even further, even the USSR was an arm on the body of Big Business. Trotsky and Lenin both had Capitalist financing.

    1. Maju

      I understand that the Obama phenomenon, two years ago, specially the Democrat nomination campaign with all its grassroots mobilization, later vanished like smoke, was a good example of the huge grassroots forces that are latent at the Left in the USA. However, as soon as the Dem nomination was achieved, it became obvious (at least to me and also to some red intellectuals in the USA, like James Petras) that he was just another man of the establishment. Still people was so desperate with the Bush period that they voted for him anyhow (apparently, because the e-voting system is anything but transparent).

      That campaign emphasizes the need for permanent and not just campaign- or leader-oriented organization. If all that grassroots movement would be organized now, they could at least have an influence by the left of Obama and the Dem establishment, and could probably be placing candidates or going out to strike or make a huge demo against the Gulf spill abuses or creating a new party or whatever.

      They are not organized, so they have no influence. Instead Big Capital, the Military, the Zionists, and even the NeoCons… have it. Because they are organized (in a hierarchical undesirable manner).

  62. masslib

    Money. All the progressive groups, the sierra clubs, the moveone, the code pinks, were co-opted by the Obama campaign, and now they rely on his friends for money.

  63. F. Beard

    What good is the left if they aren’t for fundamental reform in money creation? Didn’t the Commies still have a central bank? Is the left for freedom or just another form of slavery? I fear the later.

    But heck, if you socialists give the fascists hell, it will serve them right for their hypocritical praise of free markets while they profited from the government backed counterfeiting cartel.

    1. Maju

      So you are against the Central Bank and money in particular, right? Then probably your choice in the left is Anarchism (Libertarian Communism and the only form of Libertarianism I ever heard of until in the USA it became fashionable to call that way to the most exremist right-wing ultra-Liberalism, but, well you call “Liberalism” to Social-Democracy, so I can understand your confusion). Read about the anarchist experiments in Spain and Ukraine, read Kropotkin and Anselmo Lorenzo, and why their differences with the more disciplined and state-oriented Marxists.

      And make up your own mind because the stage we are in is not anymore the one in which any of the famous historical figures, theorists or pragmatic political leaders, of the left lived in. It has many things in common too but in the 21st century (and I’d dare say since the late 1960s) Socialist theorization and praxis has been different, at least in the developed world.

      For example I consider myself Autonomist, a current surely derived from the 60s’ Situationism, which is intermediate, holistic, between Marxism and Anarchism and emphasizes local praxis, while thinking and coordinating globally as well. It’s not like there is a single platform of the Left anymore, probably there was never one (though Stalinism tried to force everything into its monolithic authoritarian model, often ruthlessly… and thoughtlessly).

      1. F. Beard

        So you are against the Central Bank and money in particular, right? Maju

        I am for separating government and private money supplies. Let government money be legal tender for government debts only and let the private sector create its own money supplies for its use, including common stock.

        1. Maju

          That’s a laughable idea but I don’t think this is the place to discuss it in depth. Just say that money only has any value because the state, the institutionalization of society, backs it, giving it some value in form of consensus and law. Anything else would be madness. If you don’t trust your bank, how are you going to trust money they issue on their own? Please…

      2. attempter

        And make up your own mind because the stage we are in is not anymore the one in which any of the famous historical figures, theorists or pragmatic political leaders, of the left lived in.

        Peak Oil especially makes this true. Any philosophy and strategy going forward has to be Peak Oil conscious (or have always been applicable to decentralization and energy descent).

        The ideologies of the Oil Age must either adapt or become irrelevant.

        That’s why I think anarchism, which was not well-suited to the age of industrial centralization, growth and mass energy consumption, will finally get its big chance.

        1. Maju

          Not sure about “peak oil”, which is just part of the whole picture (my emphasis is more in the mode of production and social values, which are not anymore those of the “Obey Era” in which classical fascism and Stalinist socialism thrived) but I would say that:

          1. Anarchists had a point, even if not all the reason. Communism certainly needs of participative democracy or otherwise it becomes a mere empty banner for a bureaucracy to fly in the persecution of their own class-specific goals.

          2. Libertarian Socialism (Anarchism) is maybe better fit for the mentality of US people in particular.

          However Anarchism demonstrated itself very difficult to implement and keep organized, at least in the past. That’s why I am more hybrid in my analysis, somewhere between the best of Anarchists and the best of Marxists (or so I try). The soviets were a good idea of participative democracy after all, an idea that was kidnapped and caged by the PCUS (and when tried to revive in the early 90s, mercilessly suppressed by decree).

          Possibly in the age of Internet, with much quicker and decentralized communication an improved type of democracy can be implemented. It’s like a highly improved printing press, and printing press alone caused many radical changes.

  64. john

    Haven’t read the comments, but my response to the question is that the active lefties that I know are already doing something that fits their worldview — identity-based-specific (i.e. gay/hispanic), or helping people (e.g. volunteering at shelters, food kitchens, etc.) or (gasp) through their (non-evangelical) church. These people aren’t your a bunch of urban or limo-/SUV-liberals bitching about the soemthing on NPR at a cocktail party or their kids private school playlot, they live their politics as best they can fit into their lives.

    The right has a couple good rallying cries — variations on “it’s your money” seem to work best. The left is splintered and cannot be easily herded.

  65. Harold

    Maybe this has already been pointed out. As with Scaife, undoubtedly others, and now Koch, tens of millions of dollars are poured into right front groups for conservative capitalism. No-nothing radio, conservative press and endless right activist groups seize the public agenda at every turn. Again, tens of millions of dollars year after year.

    It makes me think of the ludicrous argument from the right that the media is liberal. Ah, yeah, corporate owned press $$$’s with corporate advertising $$$’s are demanding the message be liberal? $$$’s seizes and controls the agenda.


  66. Jessica

    Deep structural changes that our understanding has not fully kept up with.
    1) Since the right wing basically is offering a return to what America was before the breaking-apart of the 1960s, they don’t need to understand. A left wing pointing to the way forward does.
    2) The right wing is actually aligned with core groups within the current power structure and always has that wind at its back (money and media). The left wing has that wind in its face.
    Some of the structural changes:
    – Job insecurity and increased competition for real jobs. “Dropping out” was based on the ease of dropping back in later.
    – Rise of student debt peonage (as many have pointed out) But if this were as big a factor as my gut tells me it is, then why isn’t there a strong youth left in European countries where university tuition is free? More freedom yes, but it is not exactly the 60s in Scandanavia either.
    – Fractioning of experience with shift from Big 3 networks to micro-media. Even the “mainstream” has become more like a river delta with many parallel streams than a single big wide river.
    – General intensification of competitiveness in ordinary life as dissolving of life-long employment and clear career tracks opens up more possibilities both for advance and for being stepped on and left behind.
    – Split between working class political interests and middle class political interests from the 1960s.
    – Outsourcing and renewed immigration in the US (was unusually low from early 1920s until late 1960s) and rise of immigration to Europe instead of from Europe.
    – More full incorporation of formerly semi-independent power structures. The big 3 networks in the US used to be a semi-independent part of the power structure. Now they are direct corporate puppets. Universities were partial refuges and incubators of alternatives but are now corporate vocational and research centers.
    – Commodification of youth culture and incorporation into corporate structure. Rebellion against social structure converted into rebellion against uncoolness. Partially due to dissolving of much of former sexual restrictions on the middle class. Testosteronal “smash the state” becomes “fight for the right to party”.
    – The left in the 1960s was aided by the rise of youth culture, which was fairly new. (I think youth have separate music from the rest of society starts roughly with the young Frank Sinatra in the 40s.) Now “youth culture” too has split into smaller fragments.
    – Maslowian alienation: Middle-class left tends to frame issues in terms of social justice but have hard time making straight out economic demands. A “chicken in every pot” has become “health insurance for the uninsured” rather than “free post-secondary education/training”.

    Generally, diversity has broken up solidarity based on uniformities. Developing a higher level solidarity based on uniqueness rather than uniformities is a difficult task. (Which the right-wing does not face because it is by instinct pro-uniformity)

  67. Jessica

    Broad historical overview:
    The normal state of American politics is for the left to be weak. America is more about individual opportunity than collective solidarity. This runs incredibly deep in the culture. 1932-1968 was an exception, not the norm.
    It was made possible because social democracy provided a vision, fascism and communism provided the threat, and a mature national economy stronger than any rival provided the opportunity to both include large parts of the working class in the pay-off and to discipline those parts of the corporate elite for which this deal did not work. (Basically, southern agriculture and all industries dependent on low wages (such as textiles that moved from New England to the South, then on to Asia) in contrast with advanced industries such as steel and automobiles that depended more on successful utilization of massive amounts of capital.)

  68. Jessica

    Oops, so many words, but still left out the biggest structural change:
    The shift from producing things to producing knowledge (in the broadest sense). The difficulty of incorporating production of intangibles into systems evolved for production of things is the single large driving factor. This is the deep background to financialization.

    1. john c. halasz

      Umm… Marx gave an account of financialization in Vol.3. I’m not saying it’s the last word,- (those were gold-standard days, and the ratio of financial assets to global output went from 30% at the time of Marx’ death to 50% on the eve of WW1, the previous global era of “free trade”, whereas nowadays the ratio is around 400%),- but the tendency is by now means utterly new, nor is it simply a matter of the increasing role of “knowledge” in production, (which, were that the case, you’d think they’d have developed much better financial techniques by now, eh?)

      1. Jessica

        You are right. The connection is not that direct.
        To the extent knowledge production is the cutting edge, the problem is that knowledge is often difficult to monetize (make the money from). Therefore, the economy can not grow in the direction it wants to go and things stagnate and deform. The extremes of financialization are an opportunistic infection that takes hold in that condition.
        From another angle, the problem that the existing system has with knowledge production is that both the producing and the knowledge produced tend more toward being common but our system is oriented toward private and public ownership, which fit fine with thing production.

        1. john c. halasz

          Again, not to flog the old jargon and the quondam dogmatism, but the prognostication was that the “forces of production”, which means not just the work force, but the available technical means), would come into increasing “contradiction” with the prevailing “relations of production”, (which is an analytic, not a substantive distinction, i.e. there never is one without the other), such that those prevailing “relations of production” become a dysfunctional constraint on the further development of the “forces of production”: i.e. the lack of profitable opportunities to invest in newer technical possibilities, (since it would involve the devaluation of extant capital stocks), would restrain any further development of really possible technical means and the opportunities for further social wealth generation, employment and distributions that would sustain adequate demand. Hence some more publicly instituted and socialized means of deploying new technical investment would be required, over against the level of “development’ that would remain bound to the private appropriation of profits/productive surpluses.

          Marx’ account of financialization and the generation of fictitious capital is as a means of disguising the tendency of falling rates of profit, due to the self-undermining tendencies to diminish the value of extant capital stocks through the competitive pressures of technical advance.

          Though I’d guess you’re thinking in terms of “open source” software and the like.

          1. Jessica

            I am looking more broadly than that. Knowledge production – everything from new pharmaceuticals to the new Harry Potter movie – requires two things to flourish. The creators of the knowledge need to be rewarded/motivated and the knowledge needs to be turned loose in order to be fully productive. No one knows how to do both at once.
            This has introduced profound irrationalities. For example, search engines from Google and others were a huge use value but given away for free. Google thrives because it can sell advertising. Big Pharma is paid nothing for the R&D it does, but wildly overpaid for the manufacturing. But the R&D itself is warped by the need to game the patent system.
            Because knowledge production does not fit well into the rules that have evolved for production of things, much of our economy has become a search for gotcha’s. Some pivot point where people can be forced to pay. High technology equivalent of highway robbery or a speed trap. Bank service charges are a good example. Most of the entire financial sector is another.
            The key point is that the problem is not just with distribution of reward as that production itself is wildly warped. By the need to produce knowledge in a form that provides a gotcha point for revenue collection. And by the way that copyrights/patents dumb knowledge down to the level of a thing.

          2. Jessica

            Also, knowledge tends to be more social and less individual than things. If I have a car, I don’t need anyone else to have one. If I have a copy of Word, much of the value depends on everyone else having a copy.
            I am just starting to figure out that one, but that is also a game changer.

          3. john c. halasz

            Well, you’re on the right track there. What you’re thinking about is called a “network effect”. Though “thing” production also comes in technological complexes with complementarities and high upfront fixed costs that too are difficult to quickly monetize. But since this is a dead thread, I won’t comment further on this key issue.

  69. Ellen Anderson

    This great discussion confirms my guess that nobody really knows what it means anymore to be progressive or left. I am an old really lefty and I have decided to work on the really local level to build small sustainable cores within our cities and towns. Through the internet I have been able to confirm that many of my old associates are doing the same. I must say, that I have some sympathy with those who think Americans are getting the government they deserve. I once belonged to a union – really thought it would be great. It was awful. There was no sense of solidarity and they hated women. Then they went and elected Reagan. Now they wonder why their children don’t have jobs.
    I do believe that we are headed into revolutionary times. Under these circumstances it is impossible to predict what will emerge from the economic collapse that has just begun. So, while I spend my time working on issues of sustainability (there are lots of really good blogs and online groups) I also think about what went wrong for our country and where we might aim (in case we are here to do that.)
    I think that granting unlimited charters to corporations, as happened in the last quarter of the 19th century, made in inevitable that economic and political power should centralize. If we could aim for one thing that would prevent this from continuing its devastation of America and the world, it would be to work towards that goal.
    I agree with someone on this blog who said that anyone who seriously attempted to organize towards that goal would be terminated. But someday the opportunity will arise to rethink that decision. It was probably necessary in order to industrialize and, when industrial society collapses, it may be able to be undone. Until then, I will tend my chickens and goats and garden.

    1. Maju

      “I do believe that we are headed into revolutionary times. Under these circumstances it is impossible to predict what will emerge from the economic collapse that has just begun”.

      You maybe cannot predict (passive) but you can create (active). History is in the end made by people, and sometimes by very few people.

    2. JTFaraday

      “I must say, that I have some sympathy with those who think Americans are getting the government they deserve. I once belonged to a union – really thought it would be great. It was awful. There was no sense of solidarity and they hated women. Then they went and elected Reagan. Now they wonder why their children don’t have jobs.”

      Well, here’s the thing about that. I am very much under the impression that the 60s/post-60s identity movements frontally attacked “white male privilege” as such, and in some largely unprivileged environments.

      Maybe even *primarily* unprivileged environments, just as the “liberal” elite ivy league educated press characterizes the working class scum today, much as conservatives attack mortgage deadbeats, while all of them let their classmates on Wall Street off the hook.

      A classic scapegoat. If that were me, I might have voted for Reagan too. So, yeah, maybe *everyone* is getting the government they deserve.

  70. CSTAR

    There can be no “left” with no working class in it. Working class organizations have been successfully obliterated or co-opted by the Democratic party. The left also needs an intellectual framework which includes both economics and culture. The old left’s (including the by now old “new left”) never developed much of a theory of economics that includes the role of finance or risk distribution in the formation of capital or much of sociological foundation for a meaningful theory of class. There isn’t much academic incentive to develop such a framework.

    1. john c. halasz

      I’m inclined to agree with the first sentence. But from “the left also needs an intellectual framework…” on, just what planet have you been living on?

      1. CSTAR

        It’s not clear to me what planetary characteristics you are talking about. Maybe you can give me some observations about your surroundings; then we can go ahead compare notes. It may very will turn out that we live on different planets, the question is, which one of us lives on planet Earth.

        1. john c. halasz

          Marx already provided a prescient account of financialization and the role of fictitious capital in crisis tendencies. Attempts to synthesize Weberian accounts of social structure with Marxism date from Lukacs in the 1920’s. And in the same time frame Gramsci developed an account of the state and its political culture in terms of “hegemony”. And the Frankfurt School extensively dealt with the role of “culture” within a framework of material production and economic reification, especially to explain the rise of fascism and the integration of the working-class in terms compatible with the extension of capitalist modes of exploitation and domination. And the “New Left”, which reacted against the authoritarian dogmatism and stasis of the old Left, attempted to develop accounts of “radical democracy”. So, no, none of the issues you mention are somehow entirely new or unprecedented, and haven’t been addressed in an extensive “literature”. That’s the planet I’m talking about.

          1. CSTAR

            In the same way Capitalism has developed progressive modes of production, it also has developed progressive modes of scientific research and modes of interpretation of theories (which is not to say that either modes of production or modes of research ultimately have some class value) However, to say Marx had developed a prescient account of financialization would make about as much scientific sense as saying Democritus developed a prescient account of atomic theory. In some vague sense he did, but without quantum mechanics, atomic theory is just a collection isolated mutually incomprehensible assertions.

          2. john c. halasz

            So have you actually read the account before dismissing it in the name of a blind faith in “progress”? Or the other sources cited or any of the extensive literature discussing those research traditions in latter-day form. One lesson to be gained from Marx, is that “progress” is not simply linear and continuous. (“All reification is forgetting” is how Adorno put it). And, in fact, the persistence of capitalism well past it’s “sell-by” date could result is regression, in politics, culture, knowledge, social understanding, etc.

            It’s not that all that “literature” is somehow perfectly adequate and beyond further criticism. It’s just that the issues you raise have long since been extensively discussed. And the gap is simply not anywhere near the order of that between Democritus and quantum mechanics, because social inquiry, involving inherited traditions and thus the understandings of participants, simply doesn’t “work” in the same way as natural science.

    2. Jessica

      It is not just working class organizations that have been obliterated. The unionized industrial jobs that were the core of those organizations have mostly been either automated or shipped overseas. Total employment in the sectors that were the backbone of working class organizations is a fraction of what it was a few decades ago.

      1. john c. halasz

        It’s that both automation and globalized “platforming” amount to a restructuring of corporate rents, together with a “flatter” and more “virtual” form of corporate organization. The old industrial mass production paradigm, (“Fordism”), isn’t ever going to come back in a Walmart world, since the rent-structures, which mass production workers could participate in and leverage their collective power to boost relative distributions to wages, are simply no longer there. The gains in productive efficiency (or regulatory arbitrage) get stove-piped to the top echelons, resulting in a chronic deficiency of aggregate demand, other than debt-financed.

        1. Jessica

          john c. halasz,
          Yes, the simple way to put it is that leftist solutions are basically for a Fordist world and we live in a post-Fordist world.
          Maybe the first thing the left needs to do is to understand that and explain it so that most people understand.
          I think that few do.
          Of course, the right wing is all Fordist (or pre-Fordist) but that is enough for them because the function of the right wing is not to solve problems so much as to pollute the society-wide discussion enough that real alternatives can’t emerge.

          1. hermanas

            Is “Fordism” Henry’s concept of paying employees salarys that allowed them to buy the cars they built? The shaving of pay has lead to this denoument.

          2. Maju

            To Hermanas: Fordism actually refers to chain production in highly concentrated industrial environments, in Marx’ (forecasting) terms it is “formal subsumption of Work into Capital”, also said disciplinary Capitalism. Instead modern Toyotism (characterized by team work, importance of intellectual production, assimilation of Capitalist values by the Working class, maximization of profit by “just-in-time” and other such practices) was forecasted as “real subsumption of Work into Capital”, the apogee of Capitalism, it’s most perfected form (as far as Marx could tell, he did not dare to publish such manuscripts in life though because he was playing “prophet” a bit too much). Toyotism is also known by the phrase “social worker”.

            Ford’s excellent understanding of the need for a healthy popular demand was never part of the generic concept of Fordism. It’s a separate element, more in line with what Marx described as the formation of a sub-class of well-paid lackeys within the working class, that he already saw in life growing in parts of England and France, benefiting from colonialism, he predicted that when China was divided this sub-class of well-off service workers would become dominant in parts of the developed world. As we know China was never technically divided between the imperialist powers but the trend did consolidate anyhow.

            As now the former colonies are largely growing themselves, what is left to share with these privileged working class sub-group is highly reduced and hence we see, and feel now, the “thirdworldization” of the First World.

            Ford was addressing the main contradiction of Capital, per Marx, which is that of the risk of overproduction because of the tendency to drive salaries lower and lower, reducing demand to extremes where Capital cannot sell its products, as happened in the 1930s and is probably happening today as well.

  71. Sam

    If the US ended the 2 party system we would have instaed of the DP and RP:

    – a Labor Party
    – a Green party
    – a Liberal Democratic Party centered in non-Profits and some sections of business
    – a Republican Party focused mostly on economic conservatism
    – a Theocratic Party perhaps aligned with a
    – neo-Confederate Party

    But we have a two Party system. 4 is bound to 5 in order to get a mass base. The other 3 are stuck with one another.

    1. Jessica

      But if there is a collapse and a pitchfork party emerges, there is no guarantee which direction the forks will point.

  72. John Doe

    “They have no faith in the process, so they don’t seek reform, they seek avoidance until the System itself is so rotten it collapses.”

    I’m in my 50s and I can tell you I am waiting for the collapse as well. The US is acting like an empire in decline. One foot in the role of Banana Republic. When the collapse happens That’s when you’ll see the pitchfork party. And that may or may not be a political party as well.

  73. KFritz

    Some observations to stir the pot.

    The Left in the US has often, if not always, been disorganized. It’s often been intertwined w/ freewheeling Bohemian individualism. No group embodies the 2 strands better than the Yippies. Not an important group, but very illustrative.

    By contrast, the Right has patiently organized and shaped the national discourse, since its low water mark in the 1964 election.

    Our national avocation, at least as of 3 years ago, was conspicuous consumption. We’ll spend all sort of capital, monetary and otherwise, to maintain the habit. The most successful demagogues play to this, consciously or not.

    I believe that all of the above tendencies, woven together, contribute to weakness of the left.

  74. dingusansich

    “Come with me if you want to live.”

    Let’s turn from why to what then. Some say the answer is to act locally and attain power within the Democratic Party. That’s a good, practical idea. Its danger: party loyalty undermines the use of that power. A good object lesson: Dennis Kucinich in the health insurance reform vote.

    Another idea: The left becomes a conditional friend and, when necessary, a willing enemy of the Democratic Party. It chooses to work and vote for smaller parties and write-ins, coldly denying Democrats its allegiance as the lesser of evil—even at the cost of victories by greater evils.

    The principle is simple and very old: If they will not love, let them fear.

    Gore Vidal has said the U.S. has two wings of a single party: the party of property. But there’s a silver lining to that bleak assessment: Republicans are even more devoted to money than Democrats are. That puts Dems at a structural disadvantage. It’s their Achilles’ heel. In a pure democracy of dollars, they lose. From that simple fact follows the foundation of a strategy for the left.

    The left will never be able to buy the Democratic Party fair and square. What it can do is say — in loud, can-you-hear-me-now actions — to the Dems, you have a choice: lose by competing with Republicans for money from malefactors of great wealth, or win by earning our votes. We’ll be watching. Have a nice day.

    That would be a step in a constructive direction.

    To valid, real objections of the cutting-off-your-nose genus (a.k.a. Sarah Palin!), the answer is … they’re correct. Greater evils will sometimes win as a consequence of this strategy. Leverage isn’t free. This is its price.

    And the corporate dollars? They’re a formidable, protean adversary. That said, there’s enormous disaffection out there. If Lakoff is correct, it can be channeled. Plus there’s an ace in the hole: The left doesn’t need Democrats to win. It just has to show them it can make them lose.

    Now let’s work up some lovely, distributed, grassroots mechanisms to deliver targeted, credible threats.

  75. Dumara Shivonas

    For those who think left and right is relevant, the left now is primarily gays and non-whites who want a piece of the dying, decrepit pie. They are not interested in saving the country as then they would have to confront their racism towards their fellow white americans or in the case of gays, they as well are just out for themselves. There is no unity among the left as it is composed of self-interested groups in denial that we are all in deep trouble and convinced there are still viable pieces of the pie for the taking. The left gave the appearance of unity only because of the obama election. The white leftists who voted for bam were coming from the pathetic, mind-controlled place of proving they were not racists which is not an inherent position of principle. There is one republocratic party, just a difference in 2 styles in how they take us, per instructions from their banker masters, down the road to the One World Ghetto. But don’t worry, the Tea party will not have that much effect. They are only human beings who, like all the rest, will succumb to bribery, threats, or blackmail. If they don’t, they will have an accident or heart attack. Cheer up

  76. spigzone

    “In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?”


    Why doesn’t Jane Hamsher and Cenk Uygur team up and start a national progressive party?

  77. Jake

    I am extremely happy with Obama and can’t wait to support his 2012 campaign. He’s done a terrific job, considering the political realities he has faced. I have many acquaintances who are in the same boat. I’m not sure why there is such uproar on this board.

    1. dave

      He had majorities in both houses and 59 votes in the senate. The democratic party will probably not see a majority that big again in decades.

      Let’s see what he accomplished:
      Stayed in Iraq and escalated Afghanistan

      Continued War on Terror civil liberties violations

      Made a conscious decision to continue the Bush financial bailouts when he clearly could have made alternative choices.

      Passed health care “reform” that doesn’t reform anything.

      Passed financial “reform” that doesn’t reform anything.

      That’s a failure any way you look at it.

    2. emca

      Yes, Obama has been an impeccable corporate stooge, been an immense boon to the Republican Pary and helped the save many a ‘fat-ass’ banker’s…er, ass.

  78. tz

    The first problem is that the Left is generally a bunch of snooty elites that don’t want to bother with the rabble. You had Labor, but the democrats sent their jobs to mexico and china, and excommunicated the Catholics and other pro-lifers.

    The second problem is that you have no goals or targets, at least with the congress.

    You forget that for the last generation the strategy has been packing the courts to impose such progressive ideas as cross-town busing for integration. You are to be rightly (no pun intended) feared since any technical solution would not even be tried first by some state and found successful or wanting, it would just be imposed without vote or recourse.

    Then there is no limit to what you will do to keep the judiciary packed – “bork” is now a verb. Then there was the high tech lynching. Perhaps someone on Wall street will eventually go to prison, but so far no one has gone there for leaking either the working draft or Hill’s accusation. You turned the court into a football to be kicked across the field – yet now that the judiciary is the subject of politics and personal attacks and even subversion, you complain (William Black on the judges being taught corporatism’s version of free markets)? You invented and even perfected it. Don’t ask “where are the Cops” when in every case when some leftist elite got away with it you were encouraging and applauding it – and the right similarly with their elites.

    You made the world safe for everything that happened with the bubble. First by destroying what remnants of the rule of law and an impartial judiciary, and then when the GOP was in power letting them do the same thing. Each administration breaks off a remaining shard.

    You forgot how to do basic politics because it was too slow and inefficient – you could not get national abortion through the congress, and it would fail a vote. Other policies too. But now that “all the rules are down and the devil has turned on you” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060665/quotes why are you surprised?

    I find someone with even a light infection of hubris insufferable when they speak even when I agree with them or might see them as an ally. Most do. It is worse when what is being said is both stupid and condescending.

    My apartment overlooks Detroit and I have reason to weep every day. You want destruction? Watch as every day there will be a puff or two of black smoke as some fire destroys another house. I haven’t learned to recognize the clouds of the bulldozers. Perhaps between composing lectures and cashing your royalty check you can hop in a jet and take a limosine and actually look at what the progressive endgame is.

    For the one thing you will never desire or advocate is the return of the rule of law. You will never abide to live under the same conditions and restrictions you would impose. You will not ask for a return to a judiciary as referee and properly condemn the subversion and politics instead of condemning that it is not your subversion or party. The last thing you want to do is give any individual power (e.g. Pure food and drug act instead of the captured FDA), and maybe cause class actions to give actual reparations instead of $5 coupons while lawyers make billions.

    I’m quite sure the “God and Guns” crowd would also applaud “power to the people”. And someone of integrity – if they could get nominated might wake the apathetic.

    But the masses are simply there to be manipulated, talked down to, even disrespected for their quaint beliefs. Ebenezer Baptist would not be fashionable today. Why can’t you form a progressive answer to the tea party? Because no one would come.

    Were you to be a Ghandi or King – someone who became poorer than the working poor, who was wise and charitable, I think they would listen and follow. But riding in as a cavalry on your high horses will never work. You aren’t one of them. They are too smart to be treated as children, but you talk down to them as if they are. You say you understand their suffering, but won’t give up a single perk or subsidy. Actually there are a few that do, but they are the “crazies” you would never accept. You will never write a “letter from a Birmingham Jail” because you will never be in jail.

    You cannot cling to the top rung of the ladder and reach those who cannot reach to even the first rung.

    And what you also miss is that the Tea Party itself – not the TP Inc, or the subsidiary of the NRC by the same name – should be an ally. You wish justice for those with mortgages? To bring Wall street to justice? To end corruption? They agree with you. Many even want to end the no-win wars. But they want freedom, not a different set of tyrants. They want a rule of law and to destroy the corruption and even power if it is the cause of the corruption. Better a corrupt tyrant than one on a mission (one which was merely corrupt would not do something like cross-town busing or allowing sterilization). But even far better to live in freedom with all its accidents and responsibilities and vicissitudes.

    You don’t even recognize that the corporatism and its corruption should be the common enemy. Or that destruction of the rule of law should be abhorrent instead of a progressive strategy.

    You can’t create a party or movement because even other progressives and liberals can’t stand the condescending, snooty, hubristic tone when it isn’t being spoken by their own self, nor does anyone else want to bother with that particular violation over their own pet projects. You have no shortage of ideas, or passion, but everyone demands to lead.

    You also have no vision. You can’t counter Glen Beck because vision has to be religious at some level. There has to be some great purpose. Reagan’s “shining city on a hill”. “Freedom”. A goal. The 1960s liberals were about justice in all forms. Even Kennedy with reaching the Moon was a vision. MLK “I have a dream”.

    (Do not assume I support any particular thing on the right – however I can observe strategy and tactics, and the side with the better set usually wins, whether or not it is my side).

    Both the right and left seem to miss that wars also have a moral level. You lose if you don’t fight from the moral high-ground, you are just bullies if you “win”.

    All you seem to want to do is edit the federal register. Switch around a few players. Sort of do something to make things better, or fairer, or I don’t know what.

    It is a very different thing to figure out you are going in the wrong direction than to know what the right direction is. It is very different to say we need to go north than that we need to reach a destination.

    You would continually press the “Undo” key. But then what? Why bother undoing when you can’t or won’t say what you will do?

    The GOP lost big when their only strategy was “we are not Clinton”. Negatives are good at the margin, but you can only win by proposing positives. And yet it is worse, since I can’t and don’t think you can even identify the object of “We’re not X”.

  79. Richard Kline

    So Yves, sorry I missed the front-end of this discussion, regarding which I have two observations to which I’ll return. I missed the discussion thus far because I’m on vacation in San Francisco. I have met and chatted with dozens here in the last few days, and not a single person, NOT ONE, had any comment about a) Federal policy on the economy, b) the soft coup of the Federal government by the financial industry now three years old and counting, nor c) any of the ongoing military adventures in which the US is currently involved. This is perhaps the most liberal major city in the country. I came down here in 1990 when we had in excess of 500,000 in a demonstration against the Gulf War (which was disappeared by major US media). Now, nothing. I was struck by this even before your post.

    Substantively, what are the drivers behind this? There is an organized liberal political strata in the country, and they are active. However, they have deluded themselves that the Democratic Party is an effective vehicle for their views. These liberals raised hundreds of millions for Democrats in the last election cycle under the fantasy that that problem was those nasty Republicans (who certainly were _a_ problem). Think of all the effort that Howard Dean did organizing around the country which delivered a handsome Democratic majority in Congress in 2008, only to have those in control of the party slavishly kiss the wingtips of the wealthy for their personal privileges. And websites and media matrices of these liberals presently handwring miserably regarding when/if/how the Demos will save the country. Its the largest exercise in self-inflicted nonsense I can think of in recent memory. The Democratic Party sold out their base in 1984, and have never come back. So all of the moneyed and organized liberals pour their efforts into a faction which sells them out, farts in their face, and laughs about it (think Rahm Emanuel). The tardy realization of the liberals of the country that they _have_ no party doesn’t even seem to have hit home yet.

    The second reason why we have little organized push on the genuine left has to so with social cyclical dynamics in my view. This was something I studied closely once; close enough to follow the pattern, but not closely enough to handicap situational outcomes (if that is even possible). We are presently recapitulating some of the socio-political mood of sixty years before; that would be 1950. There was an organized left then, in the union base. The Democrats did their level best to disengage with that base an move to the center in the Fifties—and got routed by the Republicans at times. The Democrats were quite active in red-baiting, for example, and many back US imperial interventions around the world. The public, as in the Rawstory articles on polls you’ve linked to, is much further left then their leadership, then and now. We can’t be sure that more liberal positions will break through to the surface over the next 15 years. That is the historical pattern, though, with issues of social justice in the 1960s, or issues of trustbusting and governmental reform in the 1900s in a similar conjuncture for US social cyclical patterns.

    It is very discouraging to think we’ll have fifteen more years of imperialism, iniquity, and foolishness. If we’re lucky, we’ll get on with things faster. I don’t see the signature of such trend deflections yet, though. Not here in San Francisco where everyone is wrapped up in their gadgets and their Saturday nights out. There is a great deal more to this discussion than I manage to summarize here. We’ll have a dozen years to hash out the details, I suspect with regret . . . .

    1. Externality

      As someone who lives in San Francisco, let me say that the Left has successfully pushed the idea that

      Criticizing Obama = Racism

      Even life long GBLT Democrats who criticize him about gays in the military or some other trendy Left issue are vilified as racists. This is true even when they leveled the same criticisms as Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II.

      Here is a typical post from a prolific lesbian writer:


    2. dandelion

      as someone living here in SF, let me also say that many of the people who are political liberals are also financially well-off — they felt a swift kick in the 2008 collapse but now are seeing valuations returning well enough. So: the simple fact is: they aren’t angry.

  80. readerOfTeaLeaves

    I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that the left has not had a third party (a la lefty Tea Party) because they were waiting for the Dems and Obama to fix things.

    Now it’s clear that Obama hasn’t fixed things. See also: Summers, Larry; Geithner, Timothy; etc. So we’re only now arriving at a time when enough people have given up on the traditional parties.

    We’ll only see further dysfunction and collapse, or we’ll see a new party on the left. Anything in-between is self-delusion.

  81. Lee

    I am a young British male about to move to the US with my wife and I agree with Yves – the young, angry left are too busy paying their debts and looking forward to a life considerably tougher than the Boomers to fight their small-minded 20th century fears.

    Myself and my wife have come out of education and a few years of work with little. We can’t afford a house, can’t afford a family and have limited options when it comes to finding a career. We face a lifetime of debt followed by a retirement of abject poverty. The government will not help us through our lives because it has spent all its money helping the Baby Boomers have 30 years of work-free comfort.

    The only way to get anywhere in America it seems is to shout as loud as you can. Unfortunately we can’t shout as loud and as long as the greying Glenn Beck army of Palin because we have to spend all our time earning enough to keep our heads above water. The American dream will not be handed to us as it was handed to the two generations before us, we will have to work awfully hard for what our parents and grandparents took for granted.

    And while we continue to work hard, those who got their piece of cake, the very same people who think they shouldn’t have to pay taxes, are reaping the rewards of Medicare, of defined-benefit pensions and houses that have appreciated for 30 years. Their America provided for them.

    They are pissed off with the culture and social movement of our new century, but we are too busy and too worried to be pissed off with the fact that the short-sighted economics of their glorious half-century has ruined ours.

    There does need to be a leftist movement, an answer to the old, the rich and the small-minded. It needs to be made of twentysomethings who will have it tougher, who didn’t cause the problems we face and who do not believe in this bullshit white, picture postcard Americana that these 20th century Mums, Dads and grandparents seem hell-bent on clinging on to.

    1. Externality

      “bullshit white, picture postcard Americana that these 20th century Mums, Dads and grandparents seem hell-bent on clinging on to.”

      What is wrong with a country being predominantly White? Would you criticize an African country for being “too Black?” An Asian country for being “too Asian?” Saudi Arabia for being “too Arab?”

    2. Externality

      After re-reading your rant, I cannot understand why, if America is so impoverished and awful, you want to move here. Perhaps, instead of complaining what an awful country you will be moving to, you should consider staying in the UK.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        I can only assume that you’ve not traveled much in Britain.
        You might want to head on over to the Guardian’s website if you’re interested, and check out an excellent video series done by one of their correspondents leading up to last May’s general elections. The videos reveal some fascinating insights into a nation in which many are essentially looking at perpetual joblessness, and many others are in jobs with no upward mobility whatsoever.

        Lee, IMVHO, what we’re all watching is a political system that has been captured by neoclassical ideology. No matter what nation we are living in, it’s my own view that the present historical moment desperately needs new economic ideas.

        Many of the problems are trans-national, and all share traits related to misuse, and abuse, of neoclassical economic assumptions. Many Boomers bought into this stupidity, but not all of us did.

        1. Externality

          I do read the Guardian online. The newspaper’s assumption that Western civilization is inherently evil and inferior to “rich, full” beliefs such as Wahabbism is tiresome. Until late 1990s, the newspaper insisted that atheistic Communism was the solution to the problems caused by the West. (Many writers at the Guardian still feel that way.) Now, the newspaper seems to reflexively defend Islam, and attack anyone who points out its problems (e.g., homophobia).

  82. EmmaZahn

    Maybe because the left chose to point and laugh at a true grassroots movement emerging rather than engage it? The right certainly grasped the opportunity presented and quickly moved in to take control and direct it against its own best interests. But that’s typical of the left, always ready, willing and able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory rather than have the purity of their causes smudged. Not really political animals are they?

  83. hermanas

    While the left is in the clouds with Marx and Hegel, the right focuses on basic motivations, “fear and greed” We’re becoming a North Korean economy. A huge military defence comlex with people begging for food in the streets.

  84. heterophilous

    I think this is a fascinating question, Yves, and one that I often wondered about during my college years (upon hearing some professor or other wax romantic about social movements during the 1960s and the limitless sense of possibility that was purported to have prevailed during this period).

    One notable factor that does not yet appear to have received attention on your thread is the role of demographics in fueling ‘New Left’ protest cycles. During 1945-1946, there was a massive spike in birth rates on the order of several million babies. Which is to say, that when the age structure of a society is comparatively young – this baby boom effect must have definitely shaped ideas about what was possible within 1960s college campus culture.

    Jack Goldstone has written a quite a bit on demographic-structural theories of revolution, and you might find this (partially available) article he wrote several years back with Doug McAdam on demographic and life-cycle dimensions of the New Left movement interesting (via Google Books):


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