Why Is the Left Slice of the Democrats Getting Crushed?

“I’m flabbergasted. I’m embarrassed. This is the biggest screw-up electorally that I’ve ever been involved in,” said one progressive activist still sorting through the wreckage.

“Why Ilya Sheyman And Progressives Lost Big In Illinois’ 10th District Primary”, Huffington Post

“Delaney defeated state Sen. Rob Garagiola, 54 percent to 29 percent, in the Democratic primary. The result is notable since most people believe Democrats in Annapolis drew the district with Garagiola in mind and the legislator enjoyed support from organized labor, progressive groups, and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Rothenberg Political Report

At this point, even Moveon members won’t vote for self-proclaimed progressive candidates.  And labor and DC liberals can’t deliver votes, but money can.  Those are the lessons that insiders are drawing from two important but little noted Congressional primaries that happened late last month, one in Illinois and one in Maryland.

Politics is a game of proxy fights.  In contested political conventions, for instance, the question of the party platform is often used to test political strength, so various factions know their strength when it comes to a later contest on party nominations.  Party primaries are not political conventions, but the stakes are high.  They are about which faction in the party is going to take the governing reigns.  They are usually low-turnout affairs where only the party faithful shows up.  They are hard to poll, because the voting universe is unpredictable, but in many ways, primaries are far more important elections than general elections.  A primary can also be a proxy fight, something that other politicians watch to see if they have to watch their left or right flank when making policy.

The Illinois tenth saw such a proxy fight in late March, in a little watched Congressional primary in Illinois between a Democratic moderate, Brett Schneider, and a self-described progressive and former Obama campaign organizer, Ilya Sheyman.  Schneider, backed by the party establishment and officials such as Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, defeated the 25 year old Sheyman, who had the backing of online liberal groups like DFA, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Moveon, and various labor unions.  Ilya lost by eight points after what looked like a substantial double lead in the polls, in a 62% blue district.

A similar primary took place in Maryland, between a prominent state politician backed by progressive institutional support (including Moveon and labor), Sen. Rob Garagiola, facing a self-funding anti-labor financier John Delaney.  Garagiola was utterly destroyed, by 25 points.

Both were brutal.  I won’t speak to Maryland, because that race involved an opaque Maryland establishment.  Illinois, though, is a little clearer, because the candidate originated from the “netroots”.  Turnout in the IL-10 district was 30,000 total, roughly half of what liberal organizers expected.  To give you a frame of reference, Moveon alone has 15,000 members in the district, which means that the online group simply could not turn out its own members to vote.  The Communications Workers of America were also involved, as was the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy for America.  The PCCC was cheekily named after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and was designed to replicate and surpass the establishment’s campaign infrastructure, but use it on behalf of progressives.  DFA was an outgrowth of Howard Dean’s 2004 anti-war Presidential campaign, and Dean did endorse Sheyman.  These groups have millions of members collectively, can raise reasonably large sums of money, generate press, make TV ads, engage in direct mail campaigns, and recruit and run candidates.

Up until the election, all public polling had shown Sheyman leading by double digits, and Sheyman had outraised and out-enthused Schneider.  Sheyman had as his platform breaking up the banks, ending various wars, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and marriage equality.  He had worked at Moveon, and he proudly called himself a progressive, while attacking Schneider as a closet Republican who had given money to the GOP and voted in Republican primaries.  All of the talking points developed in the course of seven or eight years of internet Democratic politics – “bold progressive”, “people-power”, and “progressive” were on display.  He lost badly.

Yet in a similar Illinois district, a candidate named David Gill backed by a much smaller and less glamorous group – the Progressive Democrats of America – faced a similar dynamic.  He defeated the establishment candidate using a volunteer approach, and won his primary election.

This is an odd split – institutional DC self-described progressive groups with money and glitz – go straight into a buzz saw.  Since the highwater point of 2006, when progressives were able to defeat Joe Lieberman in a primary race in Connecticut (losing in the general election), the trend has been almost entirely downhill.  The outcome of their efforts to elect Obama, on a policy level, has been worse (and accelerating) inequality than that we saw under George W. Bush.  Americans decided to vote for the people who claimed to be progressive, and they got mostly the same thing they got under Bush, maybe a little worse.  In 2010, the swing against Democrats was severe.  I was working for Rep. Alan Grayson, and he lost by double digits after the state of Florida turned through no turnout on the Democratic side into a mini-version of Texas.

Inequality is the core of any economic policy framework, and that the Obama policy framework is essentially the same or worse than Bush’s on this matter is worth noting.  It impacts the electoral dynamic significantly, though it’s hard to figure out precisely how.  What happened in any election is always a guess, but there are at least three take-aways from the loss of these two candidates.

One, the internet Democrats who emerged in the post-Bush era simply do not know how to turn out votes, and they need to acknowledge and deal with this weakness.  It’s clear that there is a market for liberal-ish donors who want to support a political infrastructure that can compete in elections, and there is a media infrastructure available to communicate a message.  But the current crop of organizers, while entrepreneurial in some cases (PCCC) and heirs to the work of other innovators (CWA, Moveon), has not cracked the code.  There’s an operational element here.  Many operational problems came from really bad targeting and messaging that did not work.  Organizers need to acknowledge this, change leadership in some cases, and funders need to reorganize priorities around clear political accomplishments.  Additionally, political reporters should stop relying on the word of DC internet groups as the voice of “the left”.  If you can’t turn out your members to vote, then they aren’t really your members.

Two, the internet Democrats need to understand the basis of George Washington Plunkett politics, which is that votes come from getting voters turkeys at Christmas.  Voters want stuff, information on how to live their lives, increased incomes, a better world, tax cuts, the trash picked up regularly, whatever – and if you can’t credibly get it to them, your message is unpersuasive.  It’s not that your arguments don’t work, it’s that you aren’t a trusted messenger, and you can’t win in a low-trust fight because low trust channels are dominated by oligarchs.  This is why the failure of the internet progressive space to focus on wages or foreclosures from 2006-2010 was so catastrophic.  It’s why the fact that health care doesn’t kick in until 2014 carried significant political costs.  There simply is no progressive advantage on economic arguments anymore.  Sheyman laid out standard left-but-not-too-left policy prescriptions – reimplementing Glass-Steagall, lifting the Social Security cap on earnings, Medicare-for-All, gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan – and they didn’t work.  Why would one really junior member of Congress without any substantive record of accomplishment really matter?  Why would anyone trust the progressive brand on economics?

Three, internet-based Democrats have failed to find a way to introduce new ideas into the political process, but have been absorbed into the neoliberal policy apparatus.  Stark and clear ideological arguments, like decriminalizing drugs, just were not a part of the dialogue in this race.  That one serves a twofer, because it’s both a distinction of vision and something people can have from their politicians, ie. the right to do what they want with their bodies.  Then there was the question of American empire, which also did not come up explicitly.  Instead, Sheyman wrote a retrospective on the race in which he blamed his loss on a smear campaign by his opponent.  His opponent, Sheyman claimed, smeared him, arguing that Sheyman does not support apartheid-like policies by a right-wing government in Israel, but in fact, Sheyman claims, he does.  In other words, both candidates were stridently talking about how similar they were to each other.  Politically, this crippled Sheyman, because while he could talk about how progressive he was in the race, so could his opponent.  And there was no way to distinguish the two of them.  Both sounded like the same type of mainstream Democrat on substance, with one arguing he was more partisan and the other arguing he was less partisan.  New ideas are ways of creating distinctions, real frameworks by which to generate political power.  There weren’t any new ideas or litmus tests here.  So people, even Moveon members, picked the moderate sounding guy with a track record.  Or they didn’t vote.

It’s not obvious that this would have made an electoral difference, but what’s the point of risking a brutal loss when the only purpose for running is to have a slightly more partisan standard Democrat in office?  All in all, the version of progressivism built on anti-Bush feelings in the era from 2002-2008 just does yet not carry power, and its messaging is unpersuasive.  This could change, if the behavior of the leadership of these groups change.  If there is to be a counter to the drift towards radical inequality, it will not come from institutional DC-based progressives as long as these ostensibly groups support the politics of nothingness.  They must eventually integrate politics and what politics can deliver, or risk complete irrelevance.

There is a stirring of interestingness on the electoral front, which I’ll hopefully go into tomorrow.  It has to do with an unusual group of very local candidates working on foreclosure fraud.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. jsmith

    It has been said:

    A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.

    A socialist is a progressive who’s been lied to too many times.

    1. wunsacon

      A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged and who opts to “declare war on [crime|drugs|terrorism]” rather than maintain their poise and work on the root causes leading to mugging, drugs, bombing, etc.

    2. Anon

      Nah, sorry to state the obvious, but the Democrats are losing because of the money (read the manifestation of power in a materialistic society) are created to much and too quick for the republicans. But it all started with the rigged 2000 election, the rigged 9/11, the terror of anthrax letters, the phony security apparatus, all made for the monies interests.

      Money talks, and the only way to reverse the change is honest money, objective money. But hey, who cares.

      1. Bev

        Trying again to post the following:


        DAVID GRAEBER: “the American Empire collapse is, effectively, being negotiated both internationally, and within”

        Por Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues

        Cycles of debt

        Then, David discovered very long cycles in the history of debt, that – amazingly – alternate between virtual and metal money periods. Five cycles so far.


        A: Oh I don’t think there’s really any going back. Rather, I think people haven’t come to fully embrace what sort of money system we’re moving into – as I just suggested. But in a way 2008 let the cat out of the bag. We realize now that if money is owed by really important players, even trillions in debts can be made to disappear or renegotiated away. Money is just a social arrangement, a set of promises or IOUs. Hence, if democracy is to mean anything, it’ll have to mean that everyone gets to weigh in on how these promises are made and renegotiated.



        The Occupy Movement, Rigged Elections, and the
        Bastille Line: An Urgent Call To Action

        In the rigged game of American elections, it now often requires a 60% or greater supermajority to actually win an election against a candidate or proposition favored by the “1%.” And, because computerized rigging knows no theoretical bounds, it can get a lot worse, the thumb on the scale morphing as needed into a ham fist and, ultimately, an elephant—whatever it takes to stay in power. And every rigged election brings us one block closer to the Bastille, to a stark choice between retreat and revolution, an obscenely uneven playing field with no democratic alternative, no political means of redress and recovery.




        This video, Stealing Our Votes And Our Democracy, [www.youtube.com/user/electiondefense] presents just a few of the many computer experts and highly-respected academics who have demonstrated over and over again how easy it is to alter vote counts when electronic equipment is used to count our votes.

        To have election outcomes we can trust, the hand-marked paper ballots must be counted in public by human eyes before they leave the public sight.

        The transition back to hand-counting—the process we used here in America for more than 200 years—can begin by hand-counting the Federal races, of which there are never more than three: Representative, Senator and President. Then, when election officials see how manageable that is, we must add hand-counting of the State-wide races and State-wide referendum questions.

        In that way, we will gradually return to the “tried and true” method of hand-counting all the votes on our ballots. Yes, there has always been election fraud (precisely because elections are such high-stakes affairs) but the scale possible with electronic vote-counting is staggering. When votes are counted by hand, “stuffing the ballot boxes” is very labor-intensive; with concealed electronic counting, hundreds of thousands of votes can be changed electronically in seconds—and leave no trace. Put bluntly, elections can be stolen wholesale and the balance of political power shifted accordingly.

        As is said in the video, if we can’t know whether the election results reported by the machines are true and accurate, how can we have a democracy? And if the “inconvenience” of human counting is too much for us, we must ask, “Do we deserve a democracy?”

        Here are some of the things you can do to help YOUR STATE recover ACCURATE VOTE COUNTING in our elections:

        1. Twitter or e-mail your State Senator and Representative the URL [www.youtube.com/user/electiondefense] for the film you just watched.
        a. Ask them to watch this film
        b. Tell them you feel they must act on this immediately
        c. Ask them to join with you (and other senators and representatives if possible) to meet with your Secretary of State (or whoever is responsible for elections in your state.)

        2. At the meeting, you must show and discuss with the Secretary of State how insecure your vote counting systems are.

        3. Emphasize that the burden of proof is on his/her office to show us that the counts can be trusted. (It is all backwards if they say it is up to the citizens to prove fraud.)

        4. Then ask to change to hand-counted paper ballots—for the Federal races—before the next election.

        5. You can assure your Secretary of State that there are efficient ways to hand count ballots.
        a. The counting is done in teams made up of members of opposing parties. Representatives of every party on the ballot must be permitted to observe each team during the counting process.
        b. An average polling precinct/ward has 500 to 1000 ballots. For three races (the maximum number of federal races in any election) counting should take approximately three hours with two teams.

        6. On election night when the polls close be at the place where your votes are counted. OBSERVE and DOCUMENT the counting process. Take photos or film the results and then check them against what is posted as the “official” results on your state’s election website.

        7. Recruit others to do the same.

        8. If the ballots are moved to a central location, film them being packed up, transported, unloaded and carried into the central location back into public view. Make clear notes about how many people were in the vehicle transporting them and if there were any stop made along the way.

        9. If the posted results are different from those you saw at the close of the counting at your site (and that you photographed), report it to Brad@BradBlog.com (or via Twitter at @TheBradBlog) and to Mike Ferriter at mikeferriter@hotmail.com .

        10. If you see (and film) anything that looks out of the ordinary, report that too.

        11. Help spread the word about how corruptible our elections are. Since the media has not been willing to cover this hugely-important issue, it is up to us to inform our fellow Americans.

        12. Learn more about this issue and join with others who are working on reforming our electoral system.
        a. Subscribe to Bradblog.com for daily news:
        b. Join the Election Defense Alliance email list for occasional updates: http://www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.com/join
        c. Join BlackBoxVoting.org for information on equipment, vendors, and voting mechanics, and to participate in their blog: http://www.blackboxvoting.org
        d. Find other information at http://www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org/resources including full-length films about our electoral system
        e. Find or start an election integrity group in your state, county or city.

      2. Bev


        In the rigged game of American elections, it now often requires a 60% or greater supermajority to actually win an election against a candidate or proposition favored by the “1%.” And, because computerized rigging knows no theoretical bounds, it can get a lot worse, the thumb on the scale morphing as needed into a ham fist and, ultimately, an elephant—whatever it takes to stay in power.




        1. Bev

          more from Election Defense Alliance:

          To have election outcomes we can trust, the hand-marked paper ballots must be counted in public by human eyes before they leave the public sight.

          The transition back to hand-counting—the process we used here in America for more than 200 years—can begin by hand-counting the Federal races, of which there are never more than three: Representative, Senator and President. Then, when election officials see how manageable that is, we must add hand-counting of the State-wide races and State-wide referendum questions.

          In that way, we will gradually return to the “tried and true” method of hand-counting all the votes on our ballots. Yes, there has always been election fraud (precisely because elections are such high-stakes affairs) but the scale possible with electronic vote-counting is staggering. When votes are counted by hand, “stuffing the ballot boxes” is very labor-intensive; with concealed electronic counting, hundreds of thousands of votes can be changed electronically in seconds—and leave no trace. Put bluntly, elections can be stolen wholesale and the balance of political power shifted accordingly.

          As is said in the video, if we can’t know whether the election results reported by the machines are true and accurate, how can we have a democracy? And if the “inconvenience” of human counting is too much for us, we must ask, “Do we deserve a democracy?”

          Here are some of the things you can do to help YOUR STATE recover ACCURATE VOTE COUNTING in our elections:

          read more




          Permission to reprint granted, with link to http://www.blackboxvoting.org

          In a major step towards global centralization of election processes, the world’s dominant Internet voting company has purchased the USA’s dominant election results reporting company.

          When you view your local or state election results on the Internet, on portals which often appear to be owned by the county elections division, in over 525 US jurisdictions you are actually redirected to a private corporate site controlled by SOE software, which operates under the name ClarityElections.com.

          The good news is that this firm promptly reports precinct-level detail in downloadable spreadsheet format. As reported by BlackBoxVoting.org in 2008, the bad news is that this centralizes one middleman access point for over 525 jurisdictions in
          And growing.

          As local election results funnel through SOE’s servers (typically before they reach the public elsewhere), those who run the computer servers for SOE essentially get “first look” at results and the ability to immediately and privately examine vote details throughout the USA.

          In 2004, many Americans were justifiably concerned when, days before the presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell redirected Ohio election night results through the Tennessee-based server for several national Republican Party operations.

          This is worse: This redirects results reporting to a centralized privately held server which is not just for Ohio, but national; not just USA-based, but global.

          A mitigation against fraud by SOE insiders has been the separation of voting machine systems from the SOE results reports. Because most US jurisdictions require posting evidence of results from each voting machine at the precinct, public citizens can organize to examine these results to compare with SOE results. Black Box Voting spearheaded a national citizen action to videotape / photograph these poll tapes in 2008.

          With the merger of SOE and SCYTL, that won’t work (if SCYTL’s voting system is used). When there are two truly independent sources of information, the public can perform its own “audit” by matching one number against the other.

          These two independent sources, however, will now be merged into one single source: an Internet voting system controlled by SCYTL, with a results reporting system also controlled by SCYTL.

          With SCYTL internet voting, there will be no ballots. No physical evidence. No chain of custody. No way for the public to authenticate who actually cast the votes, chain of custody, or the count.

          SCYTL is moving into or already running elections in: the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, India and Australia.

          SCYTL is based in Barcelona; its funding comes from international venture capital funds including Nauta Capital, Balderton Capital and Spinnaker.

          Here is the link to the press release regarding SYCTL’s acquisition of SOE:



          1. Bev

            We need to win the paper ballot hand counted solution.




            and by state and country



            Collect, upload & share information; Ask for advice, analyze results, data, documents




            Progressives’ best chance for changing the fascist direction taken by American politics may be found in a book that was, in fact, appropriated if not usurped by the GOP. I have in mind one Saul Alinsky whose ‘Rules for Radical’, written for a liberal, left leaning movement owing much to FDR and war opponents like Eugene Debs.

            Interestingly, it is the GOP which has made more effective use of the strategies and tactics than have liberals or Democrats for whom ‘Rules for Radicals’ was written. It is cited in GOP campaign manuals, practiced in almost every campaign. I have personal knowledge of that, having acquired a few GOP ‘campaign manuals’ at a time when Tom DeLay was building a conservative machine while gerrymandering the state of Texas.

            Alinsky advises ‘activists’ to work inside the existing system, to utilize the existing networks and/or infrastructure. Starting from scratch is inefficient, time consuming, wasteful of time and resources. Democrats have an infrastructure in place already. Use it! As ALINSKY himself said:

            “There’s another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future.”–Saul Alinsky



            News from Underground: The Future of the Occupation


            “The Future of the Occupation,” w/ David Graeber, Andrew Ross, Nick Mirzoeff and MCM (VIDEO)”



            Check the Index for app. 200 Non-violent actions people can take to construct positive change.

            From Dictatorship to Democracy
            by Gene Sharp

            ISBN: 1-880813-09-2



            Road to Revolution


  2. Jim

    Much of the commetariat on Naked Capitalism (from the MMT boys and girls to the increasingly disillusioned supporters of the Democratic party) still seem hopeful of returning to a model of “embedded liberalism”(as a solution to our present crisis). This earlier collective social compact operated in full force from the end of WWII until the mid-1970s and as David Harvey has nicely summarized, it advocated:

    “that the state should focus on full employment, economic growth and the welfare of its citizens and that state power should be fully deployed along side of or, if necessary intervening in or substituting for market processes to achieve these ends. Fiscal and monetary policies usually dubbed “Keynesian,” were widely deployed to dampen business cycles and to ensure reasonably full employment. A “class compromise,” between capital and labor was generally advocated as the key guarantor of domestic peace and tranquility. States actively intervened in industrial policy and moved to set standards for the social wage by constructing a variety of welfare system (health care, education and the like).”

    The possible reassertion of this model for increasingly disillusioned liberals became particularly compelling when the neo-liberal paradigm (valuing market exchange as the sole guide to all human action) was instrumental in instigating the financial crisis of 2007/2008. But when the State rescued the banks because its power was so tied up with theirs, it could no longer be viewed a a political force somehow transcendent to the market. Since that time the full emergence of a corrupt, predatory and post-democratic market-state has thrown into serious question the viability of an “embedded liberalism” as a solution to our present financial/economic/political/cultural crisis.

    It is increasingly difficult to see how our modern surveillance state in active collusion with an hegemonic market, is the virtuous agency of our collective liberation. It now seems imperative to begin to contemplate how to radically restructure and then re-embed a more limited market-state in a new social compact.

    1. RanDomino

      ‘Labor Peace’… that’s how we got into this mess! Just when we had them on the verge of defeat, we surrendered. Why are we so foolish to think they’ll give us the same mercy we gave them?

      1. okie farmer

        RanD, Its actually worse than that. Labor’s leadershsip is still locked up with the DCCC – plus, union members tend toward conservative anyway. The were an imporatant part of Reagan’s vote, and have been defiant of their leadership in the voting booth ever since. Too many thought they were doing the right thing to help elect Scott Walker for instance. Their oops, came too late.

        Any politician since Obama who labels himself a ‘progressive’ is a fool. That label is ruined. Do not accept nor define yourself with any labels, run on policy ONLY. Seriously, ANY label will alienate some voters.

        The DCCC has a consistent track record of working hard, with lots of cash, to defeat progressives. Matt, do you think the DCCC was upset that Grayson lost?

        Someone below suggested that Dems run as Repubs. Won’t work either unless all Dems register as Repubs. It would be a fabulous world if we could get rid of all parties and everyone had to run the primaries without any party labels, with general election runoff between top two vote getters. Not going to happen, for the same reason we can’t get big money out of politics – the politicos who benefit from the present system would have to be the ones who change it.

        As I’ve stated here before, and as Donna states below, gettting out the vote of the bottom 20% (actually the bottom 50%) is key to any progressive victory. Knocking on doors, registering, and dragging people to the polls is lots of work, and for the most part, internet progressives don’t believe in that kind of organizing. Labor has the resources to do that kind of work, but they don’t want to go to the ghettos either. The DCCC letting ACORN get crushed tells you how much they believe in democracy.

        I’ve been active in electoral politics for over 40 years, and I’ve never felt so hopeless about our politics and the future of the country as now. The conundrum is that if the left/progressive voter boycotts the polls, we lose. If we vote for the Dems, we lose.

        The other thing that has happened since Kennedy is that a candidate has to have a press conference/TV personality to have a chance. (Some on this thread have lamented, ‘where is our leader?’ exactly!). O’s charisma, as much as his pretending to be a populist/progressive was very important in beating McCain. Ditto Clinton over Bush I. Ditto Bush II over Gore.

        AND, the more populist candidate wins. The right has perfected their right-wing populism – the left doesn’t even know where to begin for fear of being branded a populist by right-wing populists!

        1. Trent Landers

          Howdy Okie: I take exception to your assertion that the right wing has perfected their own “right wing populism”. If that’s the tea party, if that’s any one of the buffoons that took part in the R primary debates, if that’s any of the tens of candidates that are facing uphill battles in getting re-elected, if that’s any of the turn coat, middle of the roader moderates that just announced their retirements from politics from governors to congress people, then that pop-ulism has just exploded in the face of the RNC. Divide and conquer and dirty politics is the norm and democrats, whether liberal, middle of the road or progressive need to learn the play book the Repubs. have been using so effectively but brand it with the tag of “The Future of the American Middle Class Taxpayer”. D’s must have their facts straight, their examples clearly defined and presented and have volunteer boots on the ground. The internet can be used but voters can hide there as well as be inspired to vote there also. But follow-up is crucial. I resigned from the D party and went rogue to coin a phrase. If I want change, I am going to have to do it myself because here in Nevada, everyone is shell shocked by unemployment and foreclosures and the carpetbaggers that are moving in to take over the assets that the American middle class worked for. Convince people that making sensible changes are in their best interest and that they must do it themselves is critical. The feces is deep and smelly in politics and you have to have the stomach to persevere. To get people to do that, you need a viable candidate. Right now, the main thing on EVERYONE’s mind is that if Obama does not get re-elected, the Supreme Court is forever Conservative and our Constitution and society goes down the road of irrelevance. Take to the streets, protest and organize. That is the only way change comes about.

          1. Aquifer

            Somehow i doubt that the SC status is the thing on EVERYONE’S mind – the old “gotta have a Dem., think of the SC!” routine pulled out when all else fails. The SC is already cons. – if Obama got reelected odds are the only ones he would get a chance to replace are on the “liberal” side, so it wouldn’t really matter, and his choices so far haven’t been that stellar, in any case, IMO …

    2. Jonny

      The first and by far most important thing citizens should do is fight for electoral reform. Very little policy reform of real substance can be expected until our representatives are actually more loyal to the voters than to their current and future benefactors.

      that will do something like: a) repeal Citizens United b) ban Super PACs and in general cap political donations at a reasonable level c) bar federal officials from lobbying for 10 years after leaving office d) replace one-party gerrymandering with a neutral way to apportion districts e) the hardest part, but in the end the most significant – some form of public or hybrid public-private financing that will level the playing field for candidates enough so that they don’t need financial backing from one of the major parties in order top have a decent chance.

      This is the revolution we desperately need, as everything else is contingent on real representation rather than the current follow-the-money system, and this revolution can be done peacefully and be supported by citizens from all political groups, if done correctly.

      I’ve been inspired/infuriated into starting a grassroots organization to do my part, called CantBuyUS dot org. The web site is super early beta rough right now, just to get something out there, but feel free to check it out and let me know your thoughts if you’re interested.

      1. RanDomino

        You’ve got it backwards. Politicians only act when they fear being made irrelevant, by grassroots organization to solve problems without their help. Once you start to make progress, they’ll do whatever it takes to co-opt your energy… usually in order to drive it into the ground.

        1. Jonny

          If they attempt to co-opt our energy, it can only be by promising to enact the reforms the movement is demanding. At that point, the key will be to make sure their actions actually match their words. Without a grassroots movement to compel them to act (or else risk being voted from office), nothing will happen. Do you have an alternate recommendation?

          1. Aquifer


            “compel them to act or risk being voted from office” –

            That has been the threat since time immemorial – problem is, when they don’t act, we don’t vote them out of office, we keep reelecting them – and they know it, and they know they don’t have to pay any attention beyond lip service – we are such suckers for fancy words. So they do what they like, make a few speeches, tell us that the other side is worse and we don’t vote them out, because they have convinced us “we have nowhere else to go” – perhaps the biggest political lie of our time. It’s time, past time, to carry out the threat, and, as Stein would say, “throw the bums out”

            We DO have somewhere else to go, and if the “prog” “lefty” whatever media would start featuring our choices, it would be a whole new ball game –


    3. wunsacon

      >> re-embed a more limited market-state in a new social compact.

      How is this different than the Tories/plutocrats’ goal: government should do nothing but enforce property rights — that they hold in abundance?

    4. jake chase

      I am really sick to death of this liberal myth about the post WWII social compact and its focus on “labor peace, citizen welfare, full employment,” etc. This is total bullshit. The post WWII focus was an arms race, preventive war, technology transfer abroad, foreign aid to kleptocrats, corporate boondoggles, ruinous taxes, social meddling, union featherbedding and inflation. While the band played Kennedy cheerleading messages (until the last Kennedy blew himself up by drowning his date), the military industrial complex had a field day thanks to the peace candidate, LBJ, and his blowhard vice president couldn’t even beat Richard Nixon (who everybody in the country had known to be a crook since 1951) in 1968. Full employment, my ass. The full employment was in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Why do you think the entire population under age 30 stayed high for ten years? Because things were so good?

      1. James Cole

        I agree with Jake–the “labor peace” was a temporary transitional period between feudalism and what we have now. As soon as technology existed that allowed for cross-border labor cost-arbitrage, cross-border labor-cost arbitrage is what we got, along with the legal infrastructure for it, thanks to a compliant and corrupt government.

    5. Francois T

      Shorter version: Embedded liberalism is only possible when money is not speech.

      Precisely what Dylan Ratigan is trying to achieve: get the personhood stripped out of the corporation, and get a Constitutional Amendment reversing and banning forever any further attempt at another Citizen United activist decision.

      (Yes! that was an activist decision, whichever way an honest person look at it. Just listen to McCain and Feingold on CU; they’re scathing and utterly dismissive of the K.R.A.T.S.)

  3. Timothy Gawne

    Indeed. Well said.

    Here is another way of looking at it: Obama, by betraying everything he campaigned for, yet still being presented as a ‘liberal’ or even ‘socialist’ by the mainstream corporate press, has utterly destroyed liberal and progressive politics. Nobody knows what anything means anymore, nobody trusts what is said. Why should people vote for anybody when there is effectively no relationship between what you are voting for and what you get? The entire system is broken. I offer no silver bullet for how this could be fixed, but suggest that openly despising Obama as a corporate shill – instead of wimpily ‘noting’ that he is slightly worse than Bush II – could be a good start in bringing clarity back to democratic politics.

    1. Jessica

      Isn’t it a matter not just of Obama being presented as liberal/progressive by the mainstream media, but also the entire Democratic Party establishment and most progressive organizations going along with this?

    2. different clue

      I would suggest a silver tire iron for achieving a modest step-one victory. And that silver tire iron would be defecting from the “vote-Obama” column in 2012. If enough DDs ( Disgruntled Democrats) withhold their votes from Obama to cause his defeat by default, then the DDs will at least be able to savor a genuine and discrete act of revenge against the Goldman-Sachs Rubinite CorpoRats of the so-called “Democratic” Party for running an Uncle Tom’s Cabin Republican Trojan Judas Horse in Democratic Disguise like Obama to begin with.

      And if the DDs can really achieve the political destruction of Obama in 2012, they can inspire eachother with the possibility that they could exterminate the entire Obamacratic Party next, one revenge-election at a time. Perhaps the DDs could purge and burn and decontaminate the so-called “Democratic” Party until there is nothing left but a committed non-decietful non-treacherous minority of legitimate DemWing Democrats.

        1. different clue

          Decades of organization to organize a revolutionary general strike? Well . . . we can certainly revenge-vote against DLC Third Wavy “Democrats” in the meantime.

      1. fumigate

        I’m sure that when the Whigs were dying, all their loyalists were crying, “Without us the Democrats will make slavery worse and worse!!!1” But instead what happened was, Free-Soilers came out and said what people really thought, and spawned effective opposition to slavery. Now as revulsion for the Democrats mounts, their hacks are screaming that we need Dems to protect us from kleptocracy. But really, we’re not going to get the kleptocracy under control until the Dems are destroyed and radicals inherit the earth.

          1. tom allen

            Like legalizing pot and prosecuting banksters?

            But hey, what politician got elected fighting Prohibition and standing up against Wall Street? *ahem* I mean, except FDR. *bows head*

            Jill Stein. Green Party. Just sayin’.

      2. petridish

        To take this excellent commentary one step further:

        Maybe the Romney candidacy presents an opportunity in this regard. He is clearly a spineless, convictionless, limp-dick slug who has proven time and again that he will quickly bend with the prevailing winds. He will also have the extra benefit of desiring, above all else, a second term. Obama, on the other hand, will be under no such constraint. (A truly terrifying thought!) The Republicans don’t even like Romney.

        The plan would be then to dump Obama, hire the slug and become the wind.

        Romney 2012. Think about it.

      3. Aquifer

        It is not enough to withhold them from Obama – you must give them to someone else – the message you send depends on who you give them too – if you give them to Rep. the message is “I want you to go right” If you give them to a lefty 3rd party like the Greens – the message is clear, on 2 fronts – !) we need lefty solutions, not yours AND 2) we have broken free from the “politics of fear” – we will now vote for what we want in stead of the best YOU tell us we can get – there IS somewhere else to go and we are going there …

        That scares the bejeebers out of them …

    3. Carla

      The “two-party system” is over. Everybody knows it. What are we going to do about it? That seems to me to be the question.

      1. R Foreman

        The super-wealthy seem content to slowly drain all remaining public resources into their private accounts, and use the public military and police to suppress all dissent.

        I think the very first step is to get those misanthropes out of power. Kind of difficult though, because if you dis them they cut off your money and throw you into the street without a job (ok it’s more complex than that, but that’s basically what happens). Now you know what the Occupiers are facing. This will take an organized effort by the majority, 99%. Organization is key.

        Dr Reich is trying to galvanize and organize people.
        See his twitter feed @RBReich

      2. James Cole

        There is room now for a realignment along the lines of Clinton-Bush-Obama mainstream establishment vs. Paul-Kucinich type constitutionalism, i.e., justice-for-all, rule of law, end the wars, end prohibition of drugs, end surveillance, audit/curtail/rethink the fed, break up the banks, money out of politics platform.

        1. JTFaraday

          “mainstream establishment vs. Paul-Kucinich type constitutionalism”

          Apparently such a K-P coalition will not happen. When Matt Stoller (along with Glenn Greenwald), noted during the R Primary that whatever you think of his economics, Ron Paul was at least addressing anti-war and civil liberties issues that liberals/progressives profess to care about, the entire liberal/progressive blogosphere, including this site, went bananas.



          1. James Cole

            If by “went bananas” you mean “had a reasonably evenly-matched and productive dialogue about the issue,” I concur. The comments to those posts on this site, if anything, tilt toward favorable views of Stoller’s position.

            Last fall in New York, local Democratic operatives that were fed up with Obamaism canvassed to register Democrats as Republicans to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary (NY does not have open primaries). I don’t know how many did, but I did, and I know of many others.

  4. javagold

    think its quite clear, people in the private sector , no matter their social leanings, are tired of public employees whose salary they pay doing better and better (and more importantly expecting it to continuea and imo, flaunting it)while the private taxpayers is at great risk of losing their homes, savaings and future security…..some people better wake up as the property taxes are going to cause a civil war !!

    1. mcarson

      This is not true. Wisconsin has proved this is not true. Republicans want us to believe that life would be perfect if only the teachers and the DMV clerks and the cops were paid 20% less, and the whole while we were thinking about it they were vacuuming up over 80% of the income gains due to increased productivity.

      Hating unions and public employees isn’t playing any more.

    2. Carla

      Hundreds of thousands of public sector employees have lost their jobs and their homes, too.

    3. rjlaures

      The question I would ask is why isn’t the private sector doing as well as the public sector? By the way from what I understand while public sector low skill labor is doing better than private sector low skill labor this doesn’t hold true for higher skilled positions.

      1. reslez

        Why? Unions.

        The public sector employees must be crushed. Their unions represent a bastion of power against the oligarchs’ march to austerity. This is not tolerated.

  5. Glen

    Quite frankly, Congress in 2006, and Obama in 2008, along with the Dean lead effort in Congress were the “progressive” high water marks. What did they do when the world imploded and it really mattered?

    Nothing. Or even worse – in Obama’s case – exactly what Bush did with even a bit more thrown in for good measure.

    Why vote for them?

  6. steelhead23

    Matt, I think you are missing one thing here – disillusionment with Obama. While you likely knew the policy positions and leadership tendencies Obama would employ once elected, many were simply fired up by his eloquent rhetoric. In my lifetime, I have never seen, or felt, the level of progressive hope that was on display on election night. Obama’s policies and leadership actions since taking office have disappointed if not disgusted many progressives. Hence, when an individual comes out calling himself progressive, without actively and aggressively distancing himself, not just from his mainstream Dem opponent, but from the leader of the party, is, from our perspective, a poser. Until progressives decry the president, the mainstream candidates will, more than likely, kick their asses.

    1. lambert strether

      As Ian Welsh has argued, the left must take Obama down, and be seen to take Obama down. Otherwise, there is no left.

      1. JohnnyGL

        I agree it’d be hugely beneficial for the left to punish Obama instead of running to him from fear of the Republicans.

        However, I remember looking at the demographics of the Scott Brown victory in 2009 in MA and the turnout from wealthy towns, compared to poor ones was stark. I’m talking 70%+ turnout in areas with home values in the high 6 figures, and barely 30% in poor cities with lots of immigrants and minorities. We know 2010 seems to have brought more of the same bifurcation of class voting patterns.

        My question is this: If the base punishes the Democratic Party, will the party leaders even notice? I think an argument can be made that it already has, and they haven’t. They seem to have just continued to fight over the same high income voters that Republicans mostly get (and make in roads with the socially liberal ones).

        Does someone need to start a new party or what?

        1. rabble

          so one day Reagan says to himself “hmm, how can we make sure that the next wave of immigrants don’t vote?”

      2. Carla

        Lambert, I would humbly submit to you that the right is not right, and there is no left left.

        It seems to me that we simply must abandon the mostly empty charade of partisanship as we have known it and replace it with something more…authentic and effective. Can we start to do this at a very local level?

        1. Dan B


          Google “Resilience Circles,” or “localization” or “transition movement” for information. Lambert is right, I think about Obama (Romney is the 1% and Obama works for them). But that’s half the issue. The fundamental driving force is that the economy has reached its thermodynamic limits to growth -growth is no longer available to address social policy concerns and promote economic justice. Greece has already been sacrificed -along with the disemployed here- as the elites reflexively respond to protect their wealth, status and power.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Resilience and localism is what I’m involved in, in RL. However, what I’ve come to see is that they won’t leave us alone. Growing your own food is all very well until the oligarchs poison your groundwater, and the legacy parties rewrite or ignore the rules to let them do it. So there’s some integration to be done, but I’m not sure what it is.

          2. Aquifer

            Mr. Strether, Thank you!

            i have seen the “keep it local, keep it grassroots, and ignore politics” alternative before, but, as you say, it is not enough – this stuff must be dealt with on a regional, national, and planetary level as well – and politics is the tool …

          3. Carla

            @Dan B: “The fundamental driving force is that the economy has reached its thermodynamic limits to growth -growth is no longer available to address social policy concerns and promote economic justice.

            Yes. I hope you are familiar with CASSE, Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy and have signed the petition at http://www.steadystate.org. AND sent it to everybody you know!

      3. Aquifer

        The left must take Obama down but it must be pretty clear that is what it is doing – and that won’t happen if it just stays home – if the left were to get out in sufficient numbers for a candidate from the left, the message would be unmistakable …..

      4. Fiver

        Could not agree more, Lambert. But the selection of Obama by the Wall Street/Washington Axis was political genius, as was their instant seizure of the first serious popular response to the financial crisis, the Tea Party, in order to drive it into the Outer Wilderness by running a collection of candidates none of whom could possibly beat Obama – no matter HOW poorly Obama performed.

        They virtually destroyed both active “ends” of the political spectrum in a single term of a President, leaving the absurdly labeled “moderates” to keep all the marbles – no matter HOW thoroughly the “moderates” trash the public interest.

        It’s not just a very powerful machine. It’s a very, very sophisticated one.

        The left has to take full stock of its adversaries and start thinking about strategies that match the mis-match in power/resources. Like the Christians converting Rome, except there’s only a decade or so before enormously destructive outcomes cannot be averted.

  7. Dan Lynch

    Agree with Matt.

    Democratic brand is weak because of Obama/Pelosi/Reid.

    Progressive brand is weak because many alleged progressives aren’t all that progressive.

    Democratic party does not support progressives, for the most part.

    Progressive Caucus is a joke (they voted for “JOBS”, want to reduce the deficit, have no real power thanks to pay2play, and they generally carry water for Obama)

    At some point progressives will either 1) abandon the Democrats or 2) take over the Democratic party. As Lincoln said, a house divided cannot stand.

  8. Candy

    “Getting crushed”??? The neocrats have had no left for the last 20 years. There are no progressive parties with a “left” tendency anywhere in the entire OECD, let alone the USA.

  9. F. Beard

    Voters want stuff, information on how to live their lives, increased incomes, a better world, tax cuts, the trash picked up regularly, whatever – and if you can’t credibly get it to them, your message is unpersuasive. Matt Stoller

    As usual, Democrats should look to Republican economic solutions WHEN THE REPUBLICANS ARE IN POWER. The Republicans are crooks but they are more competent when it comes to economics than Democrats are.

    And what did GW Bush do in office? He did the most astonishingly direct (and correct) thing possible to boost the economy – he gave out money (“stimulus checks”) to the entire population!

    And wasn’t it Richard Nixon who proposed a Minimum Income Tax? And didn’t Nixon say “We are all Keynesians now.”

    So what’s the population gonna choose? Free money from the Republicans and a healthy economy or liberal hand-wringing and some stupid jobs program or other social program from the Democrats?

    I won’t vote for either Obama or the Mormon but I won’t be surprised if it is the Republicans that propose some sound economic solutions and steal what should be liberal thunder.

        1. Yves Smith

          Hah, you are revealing you age (as in the lack thereof).

          Nixon did indeed propose a negative income tax, on the advice of MIlton Friedman. That should give you some sense of how far to the right this country has moved.

          1. different clue

            I was pretty young then myself. Didn’t the loudest and worst opposition to the Negative Income Tax idea come from the various welfare case workers and poverticians and so forth who would have lost their jobs under Negative Income Tax?

  10. Geoff-UK

    And America yawned.

    If Obama goes on to sing “I’m So In Love With You (America)” on American Idol, he’s a shoe-in for re-election.

    I, for one, congratulate our Dear Leader, and hope to get an extra set of rations for my loyalty declared months ahead of many other Americans.

  11. JC

    Excellent piece, particularly loved this:

    “internet-based Democrats have failed to find a way to introduce new ideas into the political process, but have been absorbed into the neoliberal policy apparatus.”

    In my opinion, the real enduring influence behind America, both the Democrats and Republicans alike, is Milton Friedman (not Rush or Breitbart, sorry media types). So what else can we expect but more absorption of neoliberal policies? Anyone on the Democrats who’s willing to stand up and challenge the inflation targeting regime? Doubt it.

    Bruce Bartlett got it exactly right when he was recently on the Daily Show: “the problem I have with the Democrats is that they don’t have the courage of their convictions. The Republicans treat them like dirt, and they never fight back, they never do anything.”

  12. Jeff

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but this article certainly describes me. As far as I’m concerned, anyone or anything touching Obama is toxic. Looking at moveon in specific, I’d already labelled it as a democratic version of Fox in my own head. Sure, I agree with some of their action points. But I don’t trust them one bit… and why would I?

    I lump Democrat, Republican, and Progressive all into the same bin of “pit vipers”. Sure, I might choose to handle one… but very, very carefully.

    In the end, occupy is going to need it’s own brand. One that is not already corrupted.

  13. Dan Kervick

    There are a lot of things going on right now. A few impressions:

    1. There was an important national earthquake in 2008 and 2009 that many people in the Democratic Party refuse to acknowledge. The core engine of capitalism – it’s financial system – failed utterly and completely, and has been revealed to consist largely of a gang of greedy overpaid thieves and frauds serving a small plutonomy that runs the country, and are in the business of bleeding working people of their wealth, security, democratic rights and freedom. Obviously centrist Dems are loathe to address this growing and stupendous horror. But the same is true of a lot of progressive Dems who still want to talk about George Bush and the Iraq War, and don’t get that we are already in a new era.

    2. No progressive in America looks at people like Tim Geithner and Corzine and feels they are even on the same continent with them, let alone under the same tent. The split between progressive Democrats and the party’s financial insider class seems total. Obama will probably ditch Geithner for cosmetic purposes as the campaign ramps up; but no one trusts them

    3. The Occupy movement has titilated progressives with hope of a genuine revival of the left. But so far the movement seems vague and incoherent, with too many conflicting and contrary schools of thought presenting a shifting mirage-like vision of the future that is more dreamy moral aspiration that concrete agenda. So there is a waiting for Godot expereince: there is too much anticipation of the Next Big Thing on the horizon to get interested in the Old Big Things. But the Next Big Thing hasn’t really arrived yet. Not surprised that a lot of people stayed home and are waiting.

    1. RanDomino

      there’s your problem- expecting someone to just walk up and put a solution on your lap. The “Next Big Thing” is that there is no Next Big Thing. No one is coming to save you. All you have is this question: What are you going to do?

      1. Dan Kervick

        It’s not about being saved. It’s about identifying people to work with, and finding a common agenda on which to work with them.

        I’m doing what I can to advocate and communicate a message and some ideas. But no clear national movement seems to have gelled yet.

    2. Carla

      I don’t think the labels of “left” and “right” apply to Occupy. And the Occupiers I know don’t think so, either.

      1. Dan Kervick

        I know. They’re sort of above and beyond everything right now, acting for the sake of the act and the spectacle, rather than for an understandable purpose that is intelligently connected to the action. But I continue to hope for an evolution toward an actual vision of a political and institutional future that goes beyond anarchistic disruption, and that gives causal coherence to the actions.

        The history of the last 400 years is littered with the carcases of anarchistic spasms of rebellion that went nowhere.

        1. RanDomino

          As opposed to authoritarian rebellions that resulted in the slaughter of millions? Those are your options- Anarchism, or Bolshevism, or co-optation. The latter will drive it into the ground. The second, eh, we know how that ends. Sorry if you don’t like it but this is the time for Anarchy.

          1. Dan Kervick

            There are significantly more alternatives than anarchism or bolshevism. How about democratic socialism? Or how about just plain old social democracy – a system that has worked quite well in Scandinavia to give those people high levels of socio-economic equality, happiness, security and prosperity, but that has never been tried in America? Can’t we even get the Occupy folks to accept that America’s traditions of weakly regulated laissez faire capitalism and radical individualism have given us the plutocratic domination and social disintegration we have today?

            Anarchism isn’t a credible political philosophy. It’s just the spirit of antinomian rebellion, and is usually rooted in some preposterous and utterly ahistorical myths about human nature and human societies. It was silly when it was created by 19th century romantics and is silly today. An actual, functioning, democratic human society that can produce a decent life for its members is requires a lot of organization and a rule of law. It doesn’t just fall into place by emerging from person-to-person voluntariness and individual freedom expressing itself. It requires social solidarity, social commitment and durable governance structures – the very things anarchists and their selfish libertarian cousins hate.

          2. Goin' South

            “Utterly ahistorical myths”?

            Kropotkin was no romantic; he was a scientist whose work on Siberia was widely respected in the scientific community. And that work revealed that animals engage in mutual aid for the survival of the species.

            David Graeber’s Debt: the First 5,000 Years is no myth but the result of painstaking anthropological and historical research.

            And the real myth is that social democracy has succeeded. Scandinavian politics is no more immune from neoliberal and even right wing encroachment than the rest of the world.

          3. JTFaraday

            I think the point of the anarchistic moment is to break out the old habitus, which is first, political passivity, and second, being led around by the nose by legacy organizations and intellectually narrow, self serving technocrats who have already decided in advance that they are the ones who will define the horizons of what is humanely possible and who are entitled to foist their own narrow agenda off on other people without even so much as a debate.

            The only reason to call it “anarchist” as opposed to “democratic” is that the decrepit (not to mention gratuitously culture warrioring) US political establishment has so completely destroyed not only the one, but two perfectly serviceable terms of art from the Greek and Roman western tradition of political thought with which American classical liberals are more comfortable, (which means pretty much everyone).

            I suppose this can be difficult if our idea of the self-governing democratic citizen has been too thoroughly transformed into the paralyzing strictures of the client of a benevolent welfare state.

            Which we must still be living in, right?

    3. Externality

      But the same is true of a lot of progressive Dems who still want to talk about George Bush and the Iraq War, and don’t get that we are already in a new era.

      It would be easier to move on if Bush-era figures such as Paul Wolfowitz and David Frum were not regularly appearing in the media as columnists and commentators.

      If would be easier to move on if many of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who brought us the Iraq war were not constantly advocating for wars/military interventions/time-limited kinetic military actions in Libya, Syria, Mali, Iran, etc.

      It would be easier to move on if war criminals such as George W. Bush were prosecuted in the Hague or extradited to Iraq for trial under the Iraqi penal code. Instead, he gets rich(er) giving speeches all over the world. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20064684-503544.html

      1. Dan Kervick

        It’s a virtual certainty that Bush is never going to be prosecuted, unless some other country arrests him when he is traveling abroad. Maybe we should just move onto something achievable?

        And even if we change the world, right-wingers are going to show up on television.

        1. M.InThecity

          Yes, just like in Chile with Pinochet. We must be realistic and not work towards something that could never ever happen (sarcasm).

          Exactly who gets to be the arbiter of what is “realistic”? What a narrow box of thinking/action you must live in…

      2. Fiver

        Hard to do so when the current Admin kept many key Bush people right where they were in the Admin and the Government at large under the banner of Obama the “progressive’, a man who has consistently out-Bushed Bush.

    4. different clue

      Who runs the plutonomy? The plutons? Thats at least as good a work as kleptons. Plutons and kleptons. Words to work with? Memes to launch?

  14. particle61

    faithful dems who holder their breath awaiting the DOJ & the dem AGOs to harris the banker criminals may have realized that the party boys just don’t want to make those bankers madigan. Seems that all that settling & practical thinking by big.party.dems and their minions may be a real enthusiasm miller for the dem faithful – convincing some that ‘not playing that game with those game palyers anymore’ is not an unpatriotic musing that needs to be quashed.

    I know that obama and his cash conscious policy pals have a great desire to prove what they are able to get donovan in a second term, but, maybe the dem faithful ‘staying at home’ is a kind of unmanned drone to the heart of a heartless party?

  15. Jane Doe

    Anyone willing to carry the Democratic banner is saying they are for the present system.

    1. RanDomino

      The way MoveOn is talking about the “American Dream” reminds me of teabaggers talking about the Constitution- ah, what’s that word for nostalga for an idyllic past that may have never existed, which would see all problems solved if only we would return to it?

  16. ltr

    I found the writing here very confusing and haver no sense after 2 readings that I get the point. I usually love your writing, Mr. Stoller, but here I am lost and need a summary.

  17. ltr

    I at least will not support President Obama for election again, no matter what any group says. I am not afraid of the outcome of the election, but I will not support a President who turns against almost every belief I hold while pretending to be a Democrat.

  18. collective punishment

    Fine, lambert, take him down. But don’t attack Obama for his corruption – everybody left and right hates him as a crook – attack him for things that no one dares to say except the left. Get in his face about the top-ranked question on change.gov: “Will you appoint a special prosecutor… to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.” Ask him, You think you can piss on your supporters’ most urgent concerns and get away with it? Ask him, You think you can breach Torture Convention Article 12, supreme law of the land and peremptory norm of international law, and get away with it? Ask him, You think you can blow off CCPR Article 17, supreme law of the land and core human right to privacy, and get away with it? Make the weasel beg. Then, let him lose.

    1. Crazy Horse

      The key issue in this presidential race is clear: Which representative of our Kleptocratic one-party system will accelerate the collapse of the American Empire the most effectively? Which flavor of austerity will inspire the most desperate opposition? Who will divert the most tax money to military adventures in the Middle East and thus accelerate national bankruptcy? Because one thing is clear— until the American people have exhausted the last drop of Hopium and delusion they will continue to wring their hands instead of linking them together with others to seize democracy back from their rulers.

      Obama has demonstrated that he can suspend the rule of law and sanction massive fraud and theft for the benefit of his masters more effectively than any president in history. And his silver tongue still convinces the dim witted (like reporter Matt Taibbi) that he means well if only the other side wasn’t so unreasonable.

      Romney is a unique politician, unskilled in the primary attribute of his profession: lying convincingly. On a regular basis he says exactly what he believes — you know, “I don’t care about the poor” or “hardly any of my income is from speaking engagements– its actually less than 400k.” He makes a much clearer target than the slimy Goldman Sachs front man now occupying the White House, and is backed by a faction of the Kleptocrat Party that is certifiably insane. So I conclude that he is likely to send us down the road to final collapse at a faster rate than Obummer. On that basis he gets my vote. And I also like the fact that he believes his magic underwear allows him to fly. Maybe he’ll put it to the test at an appropriate moment in his presidency.

  19. Paul Tioxon

    Matt, I am not sure most of the sincere people on here even know what you are talking about when you reference getting out the vote and other operational details. The others, “I don’t vote for anyone” crowd are republican trolls who don’t even bother to thinly disguise their juvenile voter suppression psyops. The politically aware who understand that money is thrown at elections for a reason: money alone is not sufficient enough to dominate society, control of the mechanisms of state are also required. If the don’t vote and pox on both of their house crowd were for real, they would be talking about the Green Party, which operates in most states and cities across the nation or some other party to their liking. But they don’t. They only people who advocate not voting are right wingers who don’t like government in any way shape or form. The left who mouth this stuff wouldn’t be caught dead on a site like this. People who are politically engaged vote, if we don’t, that will taken away as well. I can only hold in contempt the high minded pseudo-intellectual position that usually has to chime in with their hand me down cliches and inform us that it is all kabuki, potemkin villages, PR mass psychology, that we are all fools and the politicians are only playing…get this rubes…POLITICS!!!!!!!!!!! YIKES! POLITICIANS ARE PLAYING POLITICS! Why, I thought all along they were playing sensible, reasoned fact based policies based on the well ground principles of economics. Know I know they are merely using the well established principles of Machiavelli. I am so disgusted, I shall blog and blog and blog and of course, never give any of those politicians a vote again. As if a vote was money you could save up for a rainy day and spend all on yourself.

    1. diptherio

      “If the don’t vote and pox on both of their house crowd were for real, they would be talking about the Green Party, which operates in most states and cities across the nation or some other party to their liking. But they don’t. They only people who advocate not voting are right wingers who don’t like government in any way shape or form. The left who mouth this stuff wouldn’t be caught dead on a site like this.”

      You are so, so wrong on this. I didn’t vote in 2008 because I saw that the top four contributers to both McCain and Obama were the same (financial) institutions. Also, I had watched the “Hacking Democracy” HBO documentary which demonstrates the charade of free and fair elections in this country. You may not agree, but some actual lefties like myself came to the conclusion that participating in sham elections was only giving legitimacy to an illegitimate system. I voted for Nader in 2000, but guess what, the Greens no longer appear on MT ballots. I don’t encourage anyone not to vote, that’s their decision, but I refuse to vote for a lesser of two evils and writing in a Green seems to me like a totally empty gesture.

      And btw, I am quite politically engaged, both through the Occupy movement and by working on a campaign to establish a publicly-owned bank in MT.

      Your “if you don’t agree with me you’re obviously a troll,” posturing is tiresome and counter-productive.

      1. melior

        Sorry, no one but you considers yourself a “voter” once you decided to hold your breath and sit it out. You vanished from our consensual reality as completely as those jobseekers who stopped looking. Not a problem, the rest of us will decide for you who rules your next 4 years.

      2. Paul Tioxon

        Yea, Missoula Occupy looked like a real steam roller, your upcoming May Day Picnic and Monster Kick Ball game looks like a real 7 days that shook the world. Speakers include several elected officials. Looks like some lefties went out and voted. OOOppps! You might get kicked out the tough guys club and revolution. Try actually reading what people who take the time to express themselves have to say, you might learn something. I can google what you self appointed claim to be engaged with, Occupy. Good for you. Let me know how the free hot dogs and potato salad are.

        In the mean time, if you want to punish your state reps who stand with big oil, the XL Pipeline and tar sand extraction and megaload transports, vote them out of office. That is if it doesn’t make you all coopted, corrupted and compromised and shit like that. Try taking a page from voting AND protesting African Americans who have shaken things up a lot more than OWS by sheer numbers on the streets across America. They actually got elected officials to do what they are supposed to do in the Trevon Martin murder case. And, you may have heard about some recall efforts in Ohio and Wisconsin. It takes a lot more than picnics and rallies to be politically active.

        1. LeeAnne

          yea, its a real treat to see the likes of Al Sharpton being vetted by the administration through our one and only Attorney General Holder who can’t find a finance guy he doesn’t love.

        2. Fiver

          You blew your own argument to bits.

          It was taking the issue to the streets, thus BYPASSING who voted for who completely that forced action in Florida.

          This will not be won by the ballot. FIRST the elite has to be scared enough to tolerate a real election.

    2. citizendave

      I remember the presidential election in 1960. I was 12. The morning after the election we had hand-written notes on our bedroom doors, from Mom and Dad, to let us know who won. The notes said “All the way with JFK and LBJ!”

      I would never consider voting for a Republican for President. As for independents, I remember John Anderson, and Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader, to name a few, but none really appealed to me. I did throw away my vote once or twice. The first time I voted for the winner was in ’92. I wasn’t thrilled with Bill, but that was OK, considering the alternatives.

      Now I see it as a slippery slope, with the center having already moved pretty far off the center of the dome, so that even the political left is on the slope and descending, along with the right, toward the abyss. The right, being out ahead on the steeper part of the slope, is moving faster toward the abyss. The left is doing a Michael Jackson moon walk, facing the left and appearing to walk in that direction, while actually moving further down the slope toward the right. (Any unflattering resemblance between MJ and the President is unintended, it just fits the metaphor.)

      When it comes down to it, it’s us or them. The putative Democrat may not truly represent me, but he’s moving right-ward at a slower rate. It’s sort of like saying he is reducing spending on Defense, when really it’s only reducing the rate of increase. Of course he’s not perfect. It’s easy to pick him apart sixty ways from Sunday, starting with his stand on habeas corpus (my personal favorite mistake). But the way politics works in the USA, either the Democrat or the Republican will be the next President of the US. If you do anything other than vote for the Democrat, your action constitutes a vote for the Republican. In a different world I would vote Green. But there is too much at stake, the future may not stretch out infinitely ahead.

      We don’t see the term “realpolitik” lately. To me, voting for the Democrat is a pragmatic choice. I see no candidate who fits my ideology.

      I think there is still time to fix things. Maybe Occupy will inspire something new and powerful and good. Maybe we’ll see a new Tom Paine emerge, with a new Common Sense.

      In the meantime, here is a piece from a local Wisconsin paper, written by a former editor, that suggests a pledge for liberal candidates to take. (Avoid the comments if you value your peace of mind.)

      1. LucyLulu

        I like the pledge. Would progressives be as uncompromising about honoring this kind of pledge as Republicans have been with Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes? Though without clear majorities in Congress, that would result in automatic gridlock on taxes, wouldn’t it?

      2. Fiver

        Not to be in any way critical as your comments are always solid and sincere, but I think you misunderstand the nature of the enemy. It has 2 heads, but one strategy.

        Had McCain won, and done exactly what Obama did, McCain and Republicans would’ve been utterly destroyed in 2012 AND notably by someone much more genuinely angry and desirous of change than Obama in his finest moment (whenever that was). That’s precisely why Wall Street chose Obama instead. He can do far, far more damage with far less opposition than any Republican of any stripe possibly could.

        And now They (the PTB) have the board set so “throwing out the bums” in 2016 means handing it to a Republican Party “chastened”, more “moderate” courtesy of its (fake, in my opinion) “capture” by the “whacky right” to complete the job of destroying what little is left of democracy.

    3. jake chase

      Paul, you need to tell those of us non voters who are not Republicans or trolls either exactly why we should vote for Obama. All your rhetoric boils down to ‘the other guy is even worse’. Have you even looked at your guy’s behavior since that 2008 landslide? Hope and Change my ass! Keep electing these faux democrats and the only thing you’ll have left to lose is your keyboard.

        1. Soullite

          Please, everyone knows what he was saying. Don’t insult our intelligence. He didn’t start screaming ‘REPUBLICAN TROLLS!’ for no reason.

  20. Middle Seaman

    Lambert is almost right, except that there is no American left. The selection of Obama in 2008, with all the lefty venom associated with it, was an elegant proof of an empty shell left. Obama always was a righty opportunist. An empty shell is empty; don’t expect anything of it.

    As for Maryland and Garagilla, his “fixed” district is still far from even centrist. Maryland votes Democratic and has a great and real Democratic governor, O’Malley. The state is not very liberal in laws, incentives and courts. It emphasizes education and is a home to many union workers. It isn’t NY or CA.

    Unions are the only “get out the vote” force the party has. Obama, however, stepped all over the unions and they are not enthusiastic.

    Internet or not Internet is not the issue at all.

    1. From Maryland

      Omalley passed legislation to help Banks steal homes in MD, he also has made it clear unions are on notice. It is stunning how corrupt some Democrats are in MD, how they work for car dealers, realtors and other protected rentiers. Many residents simply have no clue.’Out of sight, out of mind, pull lever for D since it is typically better then R.’

    2. Denise

      There hasn’t been a left in the US for 40 years. That’s why young people fell for the idea of Obama as a leftist – they’ve never seen a real leftist in their lives.

  21. Ed

    They should try running in the Republican primary.

    This is a serious suggestion. The identification of the Democratic Party in the U.S. as the “progressive” or “liberal” party is a historical anomaly, due to successful (and relatively liberal or left wing) legislations and actions by Democratic congresses and administrations to deal with the Great Depression, and to clean up the record in the U.S. on civil rights during the Cold War.

    Democrats had been put in power as a result of the Great Depression, really for the first time since the Civil War (the Democratic Party rarely held the presidency and Congress at the same time between the Civil War and the Great Depression), and responded well. But prior to that the party had been the more conservative and more top down of the two, the party of the southern Bourbons and the big city political machines. Even though much of the liberal legislation passed with the support of Republicans, liberal intellectuals drifted to the Democrats who were actually putting into practice what they were advocating, then trying to revive the Republican vehicle.

    However now the situation has changed again. The Republican Party is, compared to the Democrats, much more sensitive to grass-roots or populist pressure, as has always been the case historically. Advocacy groups, even if they are advocating positions most Americans find strange, have a much easier time getting a foothold and can even defeat long-serving incumbents in the primaries. But I’m not sure if people who call themselves progressives will have much influence left by the time they realize this.

    1. James Cole

      “The Republican Party is, compared to the Democrats, much more sensitive to grass-roots or populist pressure, as has always been the case historically.”
      I think this is more a product of better & more effective grass-roots organizing by Republican-oriented interest groups (as compared to Democratic-oriented ones) rather than the greater receptivity of the Republican establishment to advocacy.

    2. Nathanael

      Oh no. The Republican Party is really not responsive to grassroots pressure any more. Pay more attention.

      There’s a reason people are turning third-party; the electoral situation is much more akin to the pre-Civil-War situation (“Whigs or Democrats, whoever I elect they promote slavery”) than anything since.

  22. donna

    Boots on the ground win elections. You have to know how many votes you need to win, where you are getting them, and then turn them out. You can have all the money and resources you want, but if you don’t turn out those voters, you don’t win. “Knock and drag” is the single most effective technique — I’ve seen 10% difference in election turnouts with a good knock and drag campaign.

  23. dcblogger

    if I were still a Democrat I might suggest ditching the netroots crowd and put my energy with the Progressive Democrats of America, who seem to know what they are doing.

    But I am no longer a Democrat. In November I will be voting for Jill Stein.

    1. Sufferin' Succotash

      I’ll probably vote for Jill too. I had a real crush on her when we were in 8th grade together at Edgewood Junior High in Highland Park IL. That’s as good as a reason as any, especially considering the alternatives.

    2. lambert strether

      Ding! Jill Stein is on the ballot in my State, so I will vote Green. If she were not, I would write in “Mike Check.”

      I don’t see Sheyman as being on the left at all. Since when is Moveon part of the left?

      Adding… Sure, policy positions yadda yadda yadda. Obama proves that the Ds aren’t responsive to the electorate in the slightest degree. Heck, the Ds since 2006 prove that. So the policy positions don’t matter. So why vote for a 25-year-old Obama lifer?

      1. nobody

        Or there’s this:

        Occupy San Diego has reached consensus on, and are calling for national participation in, a nation-wide statement-campaign, trailing the Democratic & Republican campaigns throughout the 2012 Election Race. We will be holding televised town hall meetings, focused on SOLUTIONS to our social, political and economic obstacles and the ISSUES within our civilization which catalyze this national call for said solutions. We invite EVERYONE: Democrats, Republicans, Peace & Freedom, Reform, Libertarian, Green, Tea-Partiers, Socialists, Anarchists AND Occupiers of ALL KINDS to come ask questions, open & speak your minds, and perform direct actions addressing the social, economic and cultural inequality forced on our political process by unevenly stacked corporate influence.

        The goal is to empower the people of this nation to remind themselves, each other, and their “leaders”, who really makes this nation tick, recall Profit from it’s position of power, and replace it with the People.

        If the politicians’ proposed solutions really matter to the candidates who present them, it would matter more to them that the ideas came to fruition than it would matter that they themselves are elected. This is the whole point. The electoral system was BUILT and TAILORED to prevent the truly effective solutions from taking power out of the pockets of the rich, so when people keep expecting “change” to come from a system stacked up AGAINST change, the ideas never become reality. It’s time to think outside the ballot-box, BRING the solutions instead of just expecting them, and remind everyone in the game that we are not powerless. We ARE the power.


        If there IS a party you support, encourage them to join us in keeping the discourse honest during this year’s festivities. If there is not, let it be known at the polls by writing in the name of the only ones we can trust: WE THE PEOPLE.

        WTP12, as a whole, is NOT in the business of discouraging individuals from supporting what/who they want to. WTP12 IS in the business of empowering the people to take a stand and ensure the honesty of political discourse over the course of the 2012 race. But if you still need a disclaimer, here goes:

        Everytime we say anything about WRITING IN “We The People”, we’re referring to actions of political agency, and encouraging it only for those who DON’T FEEL REPRESENTED BY POLITICIANS by Election Day.

        WE THE PEOPLE 2012 is not a candidate OR a party (at least not a “party” in political context:) so no one’s advertising anything but the conversation. As such, any piece of the conversation is valuable.

        If anything, this campaign’s endgame is to have more disenfranchised people involved with the conversation (who may then vote/not vote for whomever/whatever they wish), steer the dialogue during the campaign trail (to prevent money-politics from ignoring the issues their people need addressed), and increase voter turnout on the ISSUES.

        We encourage all groups to rally together within their communities, hold real town hall meetings at your Occupations and beyond. Invite the community to come and address their issues and concerns openly. We The People 2012 recognizes that campaign trails are blazed on dollar signs and media coverage, and we do not accept that. We will open our doors for real dialogue. We will give a voice to the masses who have given up on the mainstream political system. All are welcome. All are needed.



        1. William

          That link is a dead end for those of us who have not joined the Facebook collective. If people in the Occupy movement had any clue about how to kick the elites to the curb and restore a bit of democracy they wouldn’t be hosting websites on corporate ‘social’ platforms.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Well, perhaps we should help them instead of dismissing. And the question of media tactics — our famously free press being saturated with mis- and disinformation — is not an easy one, since alternative media are silo-ed by platform, generation, formal characteristics, and all that.

            A 20-something might deride, oh, people like you and me for wasting our time on long-form blogs when everybody’s all connected! In reality, all can teach all, though oddly, or not, the media siloes are not set up to do that very efficiently.

          2. James Cole

            . . . and we would be reading this blog on mesh networks and not relying on Verizon/Comcast/TimeWarner/ATT network infrastructure, but we’re not, are we.

  24. Steve Jones

    The term left is newspeak. It’s being used increasingly by corporate outlets to associate fringe, unrealistic, or beliefs that shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s important for Ds to hustle as much support from the .01% as possible as they retake the White House, thus the gurantees of supporting just what they want. (Banksters, Defense Contractors, Big Health Inc) Ryan’s budget was just a white flag from the faithful opposition, as they half-ass the eventual Romney loser through the motions.

  25. Dr Kilovolt

    As a hardcore progressive who lives in IL-10 (until being redistricted into the 9th in this next election) I have some additional thoughts. In the past several elections, faux-moderate Republicans Mark Kirk and Bob Dold have won, despite the Obama wave in 2008, and beating a progressive would-be Obama clone, Dan Seals, three times in a row. We are tired of losing. My impression is that 25 year old Sheyman, who raised a lot of money from outside the district, just didn’t seem as electable against Dold as did Schneider, who raised most of his money from inside the district.

    If I was still in the district, I probably would have voted for Schneider, too. I’ll take an establishment Democrat over a faux-moderate Republican any day.

    1. Dr Kilovolt

      Incidentally, I volunteered for Seals in 2006 and 2008, before having a kid crimped my availability, so I felt those losses personally. I had a beer with one of the full time campaign workers a couple of days after 2006. Asked why he thought Dan lost, he said, “He didn’t kiss enough Jewish ass.” In a higher than average Jewish district, one of Dan’s somewhat infamous position statements was (paraphrasing), “On the question of Israel and the Palestinians, I come down on the side of peace.”

      1. Nathanael

        I wish there weren’t so many stupid Jewish people out there; voting for people who support the Likud government and governments well to the fascist side of that is NOT good for the long-term interests of Israel, let alone of Jewish people. I mean, I know a lot of Jewish people who know better, but there seem to be a lot of voters who don’t….

    2. LucyLulu

      I don’t know about ‘hardcore’, but another progressive here who has fallen victim to redistricting here in NC. We had one of the best representatives in the entire country I thought, Brad Miller (D). He was honest and was fighting to make the banks accountable, one of very few in our halls of Congress. He was a casualty of Republican gerrymandering. It’s just one of many things lately I find so frustrating.

      I don’t think that there is an absence of a progressive party, or at least members of the party. I see the problem as not having adequate representation. Those on the left that I know feel they’ve been sold down the river. Perhaps they were naive, I was one of them, but they got suckered by Obama’s slick “hope and change” speeches. He’s really quite good. Not that he didn’t have help from the likes of Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd, etc. The global financial crisis seemed to bring things into sharper focus. And then there was the promise of universal health care for all that turned into a bonanza for private insurers. While it has motivated some people to fight harder for change, I’m not so sure the more common reaction hasn’t been one of progressives throwing up their hands and deciding what they do doesn’t make a difference. I’m not saying that this is helpful, I’m only sharing some observations from my small corner of the world. And to be honest, I know some Tea Party folks who are feeling just as disillusioned with those that they just elected. I think there must be something that happens to people when they get to Washington that causes them to check any principles they have outside the Beltway.

  26. Aquifer

    “Why would anyone trust the progressive brand on economics”

    I would tweak that a bit – why would anyone trust the Dem brand on politics? I suspect the folks who voted in those primaries where progressives lost were what I call genetic Dems – Dems uber alles so they pick the cand, that they think can beat the Rep – doesn’t matter what he “stands” for. As you say, the politics of nothingness …

    On the other hand i suspect that “prog” Dems are beginning to realize their own party has no use for them and say “why bother, even if we got our guy elected – he could be “AF 1″ed ala Kucinich …

    “there is a media infrastructure available to communicate a message.”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that – there is a “media infrastructure”, all right, that spends it’s time “dutifully ” critiquing Obama, but, nevertheless, at the end of the day says – “but oh dear, there is no one else and he is better than a Rep.” Matt seems to me of the same stripe – he is desperately hoping for his beloved Dems to get their act together, but messy or not he will support them even though there are much better candidates who believe in the things he says he does ..

    I haven’t heard Matt discuss any 3rd party candidate from the left – (he spent his time extolling RP, for pete’s sake) as if they don’t exist, as if they wouldn’t be perfect choices for Progs who’ve had it up to the eyeballs with Dems … Yes, this is what the “progressive” media does.

    What he describes may be a windfall for 3rd parties – maybe progs will finally break free of Dems – one can only hope …

    1. Nathanael

      The Green Party’s horrendous choice of Nader in 2000 — Nader who was accepting money from the Bush campaign to lie about Gore, and Nader who openly claimed he didn’t care about the environement (as a Green Party candidate?!?) did untold damage to the Green Party just when it was starting to be treated as a legitimate option.

      1. Nathanael

        I think that unforced error delayed the “rise of third party politics” by 10-20 years.

  27. sandra

    I waited until late to read this.
    I want to say that this incisiveness is your brilliant edge–
    and I am happy to encounter it again.
    I look forward to more like it.

  28. CB

    Somewhere in my pile of unshelved books is the biography of George Washington Plunkett, his wit and wisedom. Like the difference between honest graft and dishonest graft. Like the essentials for setting up as reformers………and how much letterhead stationary to order. A wonderful book, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, well worth reading. And every word true.

    I got plenty of email from Ilya Sheyman’s campaign and Schneider’s, but I don’t send money on a candidates’ self descriptions. Words are cheap. As soon as I discovered Sheyman was an Obama campaigner, I unsubscribed. Schneider was revealed as a Republican running on the Democratic ballot line. These are not choices. For people like me, these are different forms of death. Not a dime for either of them, nor any like them. Which means I get to keep my few dimes mostly for myself.

    Tammy Baldwin sent an email declaring the mortgage settlement a signal achievement. And she’s probably one of the better candidates. How far up your ass does your head have to be to write shit like that?

  29. sd

    Here’s the problem that I am having:

    I look at Washington DC and I see Versailles – nothing more than a vipers nest of sociopaths.

    It has nothing to do with party politics. It has everything to do with money and getting high off of the power.

    Why should I vote for any of these creeps?

    They are a sanctimonious greedy self-serving narcissistic lot who don’t give a rats ass about their constituents back home unless it involves giving taxpayer money to their backers. Then they care. Loudly and mightily. And I’m supposed to help these f*ckers get in to office by giving them my vote?

    The only way I could think of to fight back was to drop my ‘party’ membership. Oh look. I just became the all important swing voter.

    Kiss my ass, Washington DC.

  30. K Ackermann

    I don’t know anything about the race, but the first thing I did was look to where AIPAC might be throwing silent threats and promises around, and sure enough, Schneider has a history of throwing money at republicans and beating the drums of war.

    Right now, in this climate, any political race between Jewish candidates has nothing to do with domestic issues. It’s all about Israel, and who can be counted on to do whatever Israel asks.

    There’s your trust factor.

    I don’t know what’s opaque in Maryland. You didn’t say, so I can’t really look.

    I think there are other factors in play that you should consider, and none of this is scientific, but hear me out…

    I think there is a stronger tendency for a republican to get out and vote a straight line ticket out of some weird sense of loyalty even when they are not thrilled about the candidate.

    Conversely, I think a democrat might have a slightly stronger tendency to skip voting for the lying scumbag.

    I can’t believe I’m going to use this analogy again… 2nd time this week… but having faith in the democratic party is just like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick.

    There comes a point where, on principle, on PRINCIPLE, you have to say I’m not falling for it any more. You can knock me all you want, and call me whatever, but I’m at the point where if I were to vote, it would be for a republican, and I sure as hell ain’t voting for a republican.

    The democrats are dishonest, sneaky, spineless, lying liars who have absolutely no liberal or progressive values. They just want to be in the system to punch their ticket.

    And by the way, nice framing when you take away the neo-liberal argument like it’s some dreary ol’ thing that nobody wants to hear. It happens to be fucking up the world, and is sort of the nexus for the unravelling of the fabric of society.

    Here’s a platform a candidate can try… how about You Want to Sell Your Crap Here, Then You Make Your Crap Here.

    Democrats would be lining up two abreast making excuses against for that one. They’d sell raffle tickets for the chance to go first.

    1. Fiver

      Love the analogy, but I suspect the disgust on both political flanks will cancel. Nobody has a positive reason to vote for either.

  31. Tao Jonesing

    “Why Is the Left Slice of the Democrats Getting Crushed?”

    You misframe the problem. Progressives are NOT part of the “left slice” of society. They are the “here is some cake” side of the status quo supporters (i.e., they offer the cake, they don’t demand the peasants find cake on their own).

    Progressive = patsy. So-called “progressives” are getting crushed because they deserve to be crushed. If my choice is between a “progressive” advocate of 1990s conservative ideology and a “conservative” advocate of 1990s conservative ideology, I say a pox on both your houses. A reckoning is coming for both sides of the Washington Consensus coin. I hope you will savor it as much as I expect to.

    Please stop pretending that “progressive” = left. Teddy Roosevelt was more progressive than the current pols, and that was more than a century ago. Go away.

      1. Nathanael

        Hell, George Bush the Elder was more progressive than many “Democrats” today. His son, by contrast, was a drug-addled psychopath. How we have sunk.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      “Democrats need to understand … that votes come from getting voters turkeys at Christmas.”

      True progressives aren’t winning because, unlike Obama, they’re just not credible turkey peddlers. Either that or progressive no longer buy candy and bribes.

      This article is actually good news. It means real progressives have abandoned and disavowed the party that has continually betrayed and abondoned them since the Carter years. “Slick Willie” Clinton was a disaster and Obama was the nail in the coffin. In time, I’m certain 2010 will be seen as the DP’s bubble top, its peak-oil high-water mark, and Obama will finally be given his due as the epic change agent. Indeed the solution is not about more effective campaigning against corporatists within the corporate party, but moving beyond it and avoiding it like the plague that it is.

      Norman Solomon is now running for US Congress in CA as a Dem. My immediate response, similar to the reaction to Elizabeth Warren’s bid, was, “what a damn shame; I like Solomon; I thought he was decent, honest man; say it ain’t so.” The Dem Party is just too far gone to be reformed from within.

        1. Nathanael

          Oh, there are things WITHIN each party worth saving, just as there were elements of the Whigs worth saving when the Whigs collapsed in the 1950s (the elements worth saving became Republicans).

  32. charles 2

    ” Voters want stuff, information on how to live their lives, increased incomes, a better world, tax cuts, the trash picked up regularly, whatever – and if you can’t credibly get it to them, your message is unpersuasive. It’s not that your arguments don’t work, it’s that you aren’t a trusted messenger, and you can’t win in a low-trust fight because low trust channels are dominated by oligarchs.”

    If you really believe this, repretative democracy is dead, and, to be honest, not worth fighting for.

    1. Nathanael

      Representative democracy has always been a “pressure release valve” for the angry mob. Government has always been by elites and it probably always will be (because most people neither want to govern nor are competent to).

      However, most forms of government allow out-of-touch, incompetent, and malicious elites to retain power until an angry mob, or a competing elite, comes for them and kills them. (And this execution happens when they don’t provide the “bread and circuses”.) Representative democracy is *supposed* to allow us to ease out incompetent, out-of-touch, malicious elites without bloodshed, and as such it is better for everyone, including those elites.

      At the moment it isn’t working. This means we need a better system of representative democracy, one which is capable of changing the government in response to the “YOU’RE NOT FEEDING US” complaint of the people.

    2. Fiver

      Good point. And surely putting an end to the whole idea of an election as a material swap of a vote for a “goodie” has to be shown the door.

  33. Conscience of a Conservative

    I don’t buy this. Deep down , I see this country as not having the large extreme left numbers that support these candidates. The country is my view on average is slightly to the right on fiscal issues and slight to to the left on social ones. The extremes are …to put it fringe.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      This is likely true. And it will, I fear, take until the trash is lying in the street uncollected until people stop being scared by nonsensical fiscal rhetoric. That will happen though, if the current stagnant paradigm continues for another decade.

    2. Yves Smith

      You’ve been reading too much mainstream media propaganda. From a post by Richard Kline:

      “Progressive goals are not popular.” Even with the systematically distorted polling data of the present, this is demonstrably untrue. Inexpensive health care, progressive taxation, educational scholarship funding, curtailment of foreign wars, environmental protection among others never fail to command majority support. It is difficult to think of a major progressive policy which commands less than a plurality. This situation is one reason for the lazy reliance upon electioneering by progressives, they know that their issues are popular, in principle at least. Rather childishly, they just want a show of hands then, as if that is what goes on really in elections.

      More here:


  34. polistra

    Progressives are weak for the same reason that real nationalists get bombed every time they dare to speak up.

    Goldman wants it that way.

    Any threat to “free trade” and internationalism shall be destroyed, whether the threat has a leftish or rightish flavor.

    “Free trade” creates chaos and inequality everywhere, which maximizes the potential for bets and options.

    “Protectionism” creates a secure working class, which minimizes all sorts of betting.

  35. chris

    Progressives, sensibly, won’t vote for Democrats anymore.

    Progressives realize that nothing short of destroying the current Democratic Party will do.

    Progressives are right (again!).

  36. A Blip on the Net

    Why give any politician, and more importantly the system, legitimacy? Everyone, left, right, center, etc. should simply go in and write “No Confidence” on their ballots. You can’t stay home and be silent, as silence gives consent. Writing Micky Mouse is meaningless as the person casting that ballot will be the only one do so.

    However, No Confidence says something else entirely. What would happen if 51% of the ballots cast said that? Not just for the Presidential Election, but any elected office where the choice is between Scylla and Charybdis.

    1. Nathanael

      They don’t actually count those ballots.

      In Russia just before the USSR collapsed, there was an option to vote for “none of the above”, it was counted, and it had started to win majorities.

  37. Brooklin Bridge

    One, the internet Democrats who emerged in the post-Bush era simply do not know how to turn out votes, and they need to acknowledge and deal with this weakness.

    Nonsense, they can manipulate people just fine; what they don’t know is how to stop sucking the establishment dick. Moveon.my.ass

  38. Philip Pilkington

    I think many progressives have lost faith in the state. You can even see it in many of the comments here. The Bush era spooked them because of all the war and surveillance. And now the state itself is in question.

    But I ask you: what is a progressive without a state? And I’ll give you the answer: an anarchist. And how much political influence can anarchist ideology have? Zilch.

    It will be years before something coherent emerges out of this scramble. Years.

    1. Dan Kervick

      I think you’re right Phillip. Progressives have been so repulsed by the actions of governments that many of them seemingly have no interest in governance any longer, even democratic governance.

      My comment above about history is based on the idea that human beings are inherently political and rule-making animals. Wherever human beings live in organized ways they form political communities. They make rules for organizing their lives together. People who break the rules are upbraided, punished or exiled. There is always a “state”. The question is whether we want the rule-making and rule-enforcing systems of that political community to be broad-based and democratic, or despotic and hierarchical.

      People who insist on standing outside of politics, law and governance altogether to await the arrival of the era of pure voluntariness are awaiting something that will never come, and by their disaffection they only remove another roadblock to the triumph of despotic power. If people of good will want truly democratic government, they need to act in solidarity with others to become the government they want. People want to end the empire? The way to do it is to infiltrate the political institutions of the empire and then legislative it out of existence. Want to end the rule of big finance? Then become the rule-makers and put financial institutions under your thumbs.

      I’m frustrated by this. For all of my adult life much of the left has been under the sway of the Chomskyan paradigm of so-called “libertarian socialism” that turns self-imposed alienation and hatred of authority into a religion of impotent moral purism. The result of this self-paralysis has been four decades of conservative triumph, growing inequality, capitalism unleashed. It is a spectacularly self-defeating approach. I worry that some in the current generation are poised to make the same gross political errors that people made in the 60’s – choosing a highly individualistic approach that is more about personal liberation and individual autonomy over an approach based on social solidarity, equality and democratic governance and rule of law. I see the Occupy movement as having strong elements of both tendencies, and something that could go either way.

      A lot of those self-actualizing countercultural rebels of the 60’s became the 1%ers of today. They took their rebellious hatred of government and ultimately turned it into a plan of deregulation, desupervision and decriminalization. This is a natural development since generalized opposition to government itself is the same thing as laissez faire. As a result of the triumph of too much of the libertarian approach over the democratic approach we got the neoliberal era of globalized private wealth unleashed that we now live in.

      1. LeeAnne

        and I fail to see what difference it makes who is in power when criminals have taken over. Criminal finance continues; criminal justice as well. As long as this is allowed to stand -yea, we’re screwed.

        1. Dan Kervick

          LeeAnne, so you’re saying it also wouldn’t make a difference if you were in power?

      2. Soullite

        Then people like you have to give people like us some reason to take part. Because just screaming ‘OMG, Why won’t you do what I’m telling you to do!!!!’ like you’ve been doing clearly isn’t getting you results.

        And I’m 30. I didn’t even draw breath in the 60’s. The reason I hate the government is because I have – not once in my entire life – seen it do anything good or decent. And all you can say is ‘suck it up, because that’s how things are!’ and then… what? What am I supposed to do with that?

        1. Dan Kervick

          I didn’t say “suck it up”. I said you should think about how you and people you trust can become the government.

      3. RanDomino

        When you put it that way, don’t be surprised when people think you want everyone to be mindless drones. People are individuals, and any system that doesn’t work for them, they will abandon. Sorry.

        But to say that Anarchism is PURELY individualistic is just slander. Tell that to the Syndicalists, who live and die, literally, on Solidarity. Tell it to Anarcho-Communists, whose entire ideology hinges on community. Sure, there are individualist tendencies, and they are associated with capitalism and pseudo-capitalist ideas like Mutualism (although Mutualism is not necessarily capitalist), but the mainstream of Anarchism is overwhelmingly collectivist.

        1. tom allen

          Anarchism is … the Boy (or even better, the Girl) Scouts. You take care of each other. You do good deeds daily. And you do skits. It’s fairly simple, really.

        2. Nathanael

          I’ve always been very attracted to anarcho-syndicalism. It’s got some underlying problems which I don’t think have been solved, but they might be solvable.

      4. Soullite

        Really, how is this supposed to get me to the ballot box? Because what you’re saying, essentially ‘there’s nothing you can do, so STFU and make the best of what you can get’ isn’t an argument for voting. It’s an argument for revolution.

        1. Dan Kervick

          OK, and so if you have a revolution, what will the government look like after the revolution is over and you succeed? Or will the revolution be the revolution to end all government?

          I’m just asking people to start visualizing success, and tell people what it looks like in something close to concrete terms, and then visualize and formulate an actual path to success.

          For example, I read an article recently about plans to “bring down” Bank of America through various kinds of “direct actions”. OK fine. What happens after Bank of America is brought down? I’d like to know because I couldn’t find any clear answer to that question in the article.

          1. Nathanael

            We put our money in credit unions, where we can vote out thieving executives.

            Call it a small improvement, but it’s a lot better than Bank of America.

          2. Nathanael

            After the revolution, we’ll have a one-house legislature elected by party-proportional representation with a Prime Minister, approval voting for all single-member offices such as the President (but fewer such offices, so people can keep TRACK of them), private prosecutions to keep the DAs honest, elimination of “absolute immunity” and “qualified immunity” in favor of the ancient Roman principle of “responsbility”, fixed 14 year terms for judges to eliminate this lifetime appointment bullshit, legalization of personal use of drugs (at home), the right to vote as an actual Constitutional right, money printed directly by the government with the government earning the seignorage (Greenbacks), a National Health Service; a “national permanent fund dividend” income for everyone which is minimally sufficient to provide food, clothing, and shelter, but no more….

            …should I go on? I agree that the core question is what we will establish AFTER the current rotten government collapses. I have a very clear idea of what to establish. I think there is agreement on a lot of these points…

          3. Nathanael

            Geez! How could I forget progressive income tax and estate tax? Those are necessary to prevent the very wealthy from tearing society apart.

            And free education which explains to people exactly why we have those taxes and how the very rich DID tear our society apart when we allowed them to remove those taxes!

      5. Philip Pilkington

        I broadly agree. Impotence has driven many into communal-based ventures. These are political, in a sense, but they only go so far. Clean a river. Lobby against local pollution. That sort of thing. Pretty asinine when you look at the real problems facing society today.

        Insofar as counterculture goes, Adam Curtis is the best on this. Did you watch his ‘All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace’? The stuff about the hippy communes and their denialism about the sorts of power-structures you allude to in your comment had incredibly destructive outcomes in which bullying became the preferred method of government.

        Curtis mentioned in an interview that one of the women interviewed said that some within the communes had used their unstructured, bullying power to rape women — but she didn’t want to say it on record.

        I think Star Trek DS9 did a great fictional take on this too. Can’t remember the name of the episode (I’m not a Trekkie, goddamnit!) but it was about a commune that returned to ‘the simple life’ but was ruled over by a bullying dictator because there was no system of structured government in place.

      6. K Ackermann

        Forget the ideals for a moment. The problems are much more pragmatic, and mostly center around the influence of corporations. Everything else flows out of that.

        Tell me… how was it that Obama… elected with a mandate for change… managed to immediately become infested with the likes of Larry Summers, Geithner, Rubin? Why does Kissenger still pop into the White House?

        Here’s a video of Kissenger literally saying that Obama has a wonderful opertunity to create a new world order out of all the crises happening. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SISUIhprOa8

        What world order would that be? It’s the same world order as today: the Washington Concensus. The same neo-liberal policy that Matt here is telling us to leave alone.

        You really think it can be legislated away, huh?

        1. Philip Pilkington

          Kissinger isn’t talking about economic policy. He couldn’t care less. He’s talking about geopolitics.

          1. K Ackermann

            But in the service of the Neoliberal institutions. Kissinger has always been interested in economics.

          2. Philip Pilkington

            Kissinger’s real era of power and influence was from 1969-1977. The US economy — and those of most of its allies — were run along quasi-Keynesian lines in this period. Neoliberlism only began its rise in the late-70s after Kissinger became less powerful. The only interest Kissinger had in actual economic policy was in using it as a sanction against those he thought a destabalising threat to his geopolitical vision — which, may I add, was not all bad.

          3. Nathanael

            Kissinger is also actually wrong. He’s failed to realize that the US has lost the geopolitical *initiative*. There will be a new world order geopolitically, but the US has no control over what that order will be like; the US abdicated that control when Bush invaded Iraq.

          4. Fiver

            That’s right. That’s why Kissinger took in young Tim Geithner – to prepare him for later placement at the heart of global power – the New York Fed. No interest in money’s connection to power at all. Nope.

            And let’s not let that mass murderer off the hook by speaking of his “interest” as “geopolitics” when it is in his “stake” in very profitable, global corporatist hegemony.

            The bastard belongs in prison, but Dems of the Day and the entire time since have given this creature a pass.

            When the State engages in such a catastrophic action as the completely unjustified destruction of 4 small Asian countries over a period of 20 years, an unbroken chain of unspeakable crimes against humanity for no sane reason, yet like now, nobody was ever held to account, it’s evident the current problem goes back further than we think. Kissinger and others have belonged in jail for decades, not floating about holding court with the Vice Premiere of China.

            Why is it Johnson and Nixon were both destroyed by Vietnam, but not Henry the K?

            Here’s just a fragment I found Googling Henry’s firm that brings it all back:


      7. Fiver

        Without Chomsky, and a handful of other public thinkers/critics, there would be no “left” in the US at all. They’d have learned nothing from him and those assisting in putting together the research about the reality of US Empire, or the National Security State, the entire disgusting story of US foreign policy post-World War II. He INSISTED that people know what the Government was doing in their name. Your criticism is accurate for a few ’60’s celeb “lefties” but not many. It was the applied tech, business and money kids on the other side of the Vietnam War Divide that went on to take power, then set about shredding anything with a direct bearing on who sits in the DC driver’s seat. They’ve been incredibly successful. You’ve conflated the entire ’60’s, the drugs, the music, etc. of a decade of unbridled “Me-ism” and laid its cause at the wrong door.

        And without a credible moral compass, there’s hardly any point to the discussion, no?

    2. Nathanael

      Years, Philip? Why do you think things will resolve themselves so *quickly*?

      Based on history I would say *decades*. How long from 1789 to the establishment of the Third Republic in France?

  39. Charles Yaker

    “Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time” 
    – President Harry S. Truman

  40. Jeff N

    The most telling thing that ever happened was the utter dearth of progressive achievements during the Dem majority years of 2009-2010.

  41. ep3

    I have been saying this since 2009. Obama ruined the name of progressivism. He allowed himself to be called one so that his Potemkin reforms would have the label of progressive so as these reforms saw light, and people disliked them and became disappointed in them, people also disliked progressives. And i believe he did it intentionally.
    Don’t forget too, in regards to institutions such as Moveon having political fundraising influence, how Yves has identified that obama keeps these liberal organizations in veal pens. So their hands are tied when it comes to raising money and votes for progressive candidates.

  42. Brooklin Bridge

    People grow tired of being had. Moveon and groups like it do nothing but con their members into carrying water for corporate shills who they claim are “liberals”, but who consistently vote to the right of Tricky Dick.

  43. LillithMc

    Circular firing squad meaning nothing more than waiting until the Plutocrats cancel elections. Sit it out. Fine. Look at Michigan and see how they don’t bother to count votes in the Legislature. How their “emergency managers” take over with dictatorial power and sell what they can on E-Bay. So “cool” to say “I will not vote” until you can’t vote. Romney-lite and his handlers will make Bush look like Mickey Mouse. Occupy will be in the camps. We have a 1% for a reason.

  44. John Steinsvold

    An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”.
    She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider.
    Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?”
    which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:


    John Steinsvold

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
    ~ Albert Einstein

  45. Carol Davidek-Waller

    Even Move On? Move On has become coopted by the Democratic suits. It’s too power hungry and naive to save itself. The Democratics are trying to use it coopt OWS who have just published a press release calling out Move On’s tactics and disavowing them.http://www.rall.com/rallblog/2012/04/08/press-release-occupy-the-east-end-rejects-moveon-org-takeover-attempt
    Progressives were punked, again. They are too unwilling to think ill of their fellow man. They need to take a more defensive stance.

    1. Nathanael

      MoveOn was always naive and moderate. It’s a stepping stone for disaffected people towards more radical groups.

      PCCC is Feingold’s group and it does need to get more competent.

  46. good2go

    “They must eventually integrate politics and what politics can deliver, or risk complete irrelevance.”

    Ah, what politics can deliver–that’s the rub, isn’t it?

    It’s likely that Sheyman felt calling out Israel’s policies for what they really are was not “what politics can deliver.” Doing so would bring AIPAC’s well-funded harpies swooping down upon him.

    So “progressive” candidates are afraid to strongly endorse provressive values because they feel those values are not “electable”–i.e., “what politics can deliver.” And when someone with even an remotely progressive agenda like Obama actually wins, what happens? They turn around and tell us to fuck off. (Obama’s 2012 slogan should be “That was then.”)

    Progressives are getting no return on their investments. And the plutarchs, who have a limitless supply of money to buy politicians and races, are getting a fantastic return.

    Therefore, for progressives, it seems that “what politics can deliver” IS irrelevance. They’re one in the same.

  47. Bev


    NOW THEREFORE: Be it resolved that the IAM Local 126 goes on record to support the National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) Act – HR 2990, because:

    The NEED Act incorporates the necessary parts of Federal Reserve into the US Treasury,

    The NEED Act ends fractional reserve banking and the debt it creates,

    The NEED Act enables congress to lawfully create and spend $2.2 Trillion to provide much needed infrastructure repair and replacement, thereby creating over 7 Million much needed long term jobs,

    The money created under the NEED Act would be created by the Government (of, by and for the people) and given value by the Labor of American Working Citizens (which elect and authorize the Government),

    The money created under the NEED Act would be given its value by the American Workers as they EARN it by exchanging their Labor to create infrastructure, assets and services which are of high value to society and as such would not induce debt or cause inflation,

    Federal, State and Municipal budgets as well as pension funds would be significantly and positively impacted by the implementation of the NEED Act,

    The Labor of American Workers would again be restored and recognized as the very foundation of wealth creation and further be freed from the current ever increasing debt.



    DAVID GRAEBER: “the American Empire collapse is, effectively, being negotiated both internationally, and within”

    Por Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues

    Cycles of debt

    Then, David discovered very long cycles in the history of debt, that – amazingly – alternate between virtual and metal money periods. Five cycles so far.

    The first – 27 centuries – was dominated by virtual credit money between 3500-800 BC, the age of the Ancient Empires of Mesopotamia, Egypt and China.

    The second coined as the Axial Ages from 800 BC to 600 AD, fourteen centuries which saw the rise of coinage sometime around 600 BC – probably in Lydia, in western Anatolia (now Turkey) and specifically to pay mercenaries – and a shift to metal bullion, a period of extreme violence and birth of old philosophies and today’s major world religions.

    The third, along eight centuries, the typical Middle Ages, High and Low, from 600 AD until 1450 with a return to virtual money. In the distant China the first financial powerhouses were the Buddhist monasteries and the paper money emerged, called “flying cash.” Then the power projection of Islam from the Iberian Peninsula to China developed capital as credit and the market become a global phenomenon. Long before the market-sand and the merchant-adventurers developed in the most advanced parts of Europe the maritime city-states, particularly the Italian Repubbliche marinare.

    The fourth, the Age of Capitalism (in the current concept), from the beginning of the globalization projection by the Portuguese (David refers 1450 as the turning point of the credit cycle), through the Industrial Revolution and the modern financialization waves, with a massive planetary switch back to bullion and the transition from an economy of credit to an economy of interest with a criminalization of debt. We saw the first modern waves of sovereign defaults in England (1472), Spain (6 from 1557), France (8 from 1558), Portugal (1560) and later in Germany (1683) and the first bubbles busts in Holland (the tulip mania in the 1630s) and then in England (the South Sea bubble of 1710). Then, the birth of systemic global crisis since 1826 until the Great Recession of the 1930s.

    Something to be determined

    That fourth period finished in 1971 when President Nixon announced that the US dollar would no longer be redeemable to gold. Nixon needs were obvious. The US developed what economist Michael Hudson, president of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, called “debt imperialism” (sovereign credit again as the engine for power projection, something Phillip II of Spain in the 16th century was a master fuelling his grand strategy). The US also needed to win the hegemony curse – what came true with the implosion of the Soviet Union. Then, we saw an incredible return to virtual money, fuelled also by the new tech revolution and the de-materialisation of finance and parts of the production and services not only in the West rich powers, but also in the emergent economies of the so-called Third World.

    We are leaving now in this new era, only 40 years old. David coined this infant period as “the beginning of something to be determined.” In this period debt has two special characteristics: first, sovereign debt from countries with a geopolitical privilege is not to be repaid, but to be continually rolled over; second, there’s a difference from middle class and poor debtors captured by the so-called democratization of finance and “systemic” debtors (those, banks, individuals, sovereigns too big to fail). The great financial crisis from 2007 is of a new type – stop to benchmark with the 1890s, or the 1907 panic or the Great Depression. Also, the geopolitical moves from emergent great powers remind us that we are thriving in the unknown.


    A: Oh I don’t think there’s really any going back. Rather, I think people haven’t come to fully embrace what sort of money system we’re moving into – as I just suggested. But in a way 2008 let the cat out of the bag. We realize now that if money is owed by really important players, even trillions in debts can be made to disappear or renegotiated away. Money is just a social arrangement, a set of promises or IOUs. Hence, if democracy is to mean anything, it’ll have to mean that everyone gets to weigh in on how these promises are made and renegotiated.

    1. Dan Kervick

      I believe the NED act moves in the right direction, but there are a couple of things I would address.

      First, as written it is too centralized. Even if we move away from for-profit banking, the process of injecting money into the economy should be decentralized and community-based, not determined entirely by central bureaucrats. I would recommend supplementing the private banking system with public options in community development banking. Nationally funded banks administered at state and community levels would be able to offer zero-interest or even negative interest-loans for the pursuit of various public purposes. If the public decides it wants to subsidize solar power, for example, public banks could be authorized to offer loans to solar firms at -10% or -20% interest. The total quantity of loans would be capped and apportioned among the branches of the system. Firms would still have to compete with one another for the loans, but the specific decisions would be made locally in the communities, by bank officers who know their communities, rather than by a central bureaucratic headquarters. The borrowers still have to repay, and to help minimize corruption loan officers are still evaluated and compensated by their success in achieving the targeted (negative) return on investment. Existing private banks would be eligible to apply to be re-chartered as public banks.

      Second, I believe the NEED Act’s framers need to think more about how a form of fiat money comes to be generally accepted in an economy. The government doesn’t have the ability to make workers or anyone else willing to accept their money simply by virtue of the fact that they print it or create it. The chartalist approach argues that government’s are able to create a demand for the state’s money by creating tax obligations that can only be discharged with that money. I believe governments also need a variety of enforced laws governing contracts and the discharging of debts to ensure that the public’s money is the common medium of exchange, and that the public can therefore pursue its purposes by using that money.

      1. Bev

        the NEED Act


        6) Well then, should we nationalize all the banking business?

        What kind of “Kool Aid” are you drinking and who gave it to you? The banking business is obviously not a proper function of government; but providing, controlling and overseeing the monetary system is definitely a function of government. No private party can do that properly. Markets have utterly failed to do that. They have concentrated wealth, have harmed the average American and now broken down entirely, except for assistance from our government. Who would keep money in banks today, except for the FDIC guarantees?

        But banks should remain privately owned, because when reasonably structured, they perform very necessary functions, and can do it professionally and conveniently. Who within government would run the banking business? Bankers however, have nothing in their training, experience or their souls that qualifies them as masters of the universe – to control our society as the money power confers upon them.

        Banks should act as intermediaries for their clients who want to get a return on a deposit or similar investment; and their clients who are willing to pay for the use of that money. But banks must not create the money. The money system belongs to the Nation and our Federal Government must be the only entity with the power to issue and regulate our money as the U.S. Constitution already mandates. We nationalize the monetary system, but don’t nationalize the individual banks. That would be a dangerous step towards fascism. Private enterprise is a powerful mechanism that can produce excellent results when properly structured and regulated. That is an important American “theme!” The AMA does not throw out the baby with the bathwater! But it most certainly gets rid of the bathwater, which is private money creation. That acts like a private tax on the rest of us!

        We regard such nationalization proposals (nationalize all banking) either as an inability to understand the difference between nationalizing the money system and nationalizing the private banking business, OR as possibly attempts to actually block proper monetary reform, because you’d have to change the essence of America in order to do it. So it distracts from real reform. The AMA reform that we advocate actually puts into place the system that most people think we have now! People think our money is provided by government. They erroneously believe that the Federal Reserve is already a part of our government. They think the banks are lending money which has been deposited with them, not that they are creating that money when they make loans. Under the AMA many of those things people already believe about money and banking actually become true! It’s a natural fit with already existing attitudes.

        7) Doesn’t your AMA proposal merely continue with a fiat money system?

        Shouldn’t we be using gold and silver instead? Wouldn’t that provide a more stable money?

        Our system is absolutely a fiat money system. But that’s a good thing, not a bad one. In reaction to the many problems caused by our privatized fiat money system over the decades, many Americans have blamed fiat money for our troubles, and they support using valuable commodities for money.

        But Folks! The problem is not fiat money, because all advanced money is a fiat of the Law! The problem is privately issued fiat money. Then that is like a private tax on all of us imposed by those with the privilege to privately issue fiat money. Private fiat money must now stop forever!

        Aristotle gave us the science of money in the 4th century B.C. which he summarized as: “Money exists not by nature but by law!” So Aristotle accurately defines money as a legal fiat.

        As for gold, most systems pretending to be gold systems have been frauds which never had the gold to back up their promises. And remember if you are still in a stage of trading things (such as gold) for other things, you are still operating in some form of barter system, not a real money system, and therefore not having the potential advantages as are available through the American Monetary Act!

        And finally as regards gold and silver: Please do not confuse a good investment with a good money system. From time to time gold and silver are good investments. However you want very different results from an investment than you want from a money. Obviously you want an investment to go up and keep going up. But you want money to remain fairly stable. Rising money would mean that you’d end up paying your debts in much more valuable money. For example the mortgage on your house would keep rising if the value of money kept rising.

        Also, contrary to prevailing prejudice, gold and silver have both been very volatile and not stable at all. Just check out the long term gold chart.

        1. K Ackermann

          Good stuff.

          I’d add that banks should be regulated, and of the regulations they break, fines should be assessed in multiples of their ill-gotten gains, not fractions as they are now. Regulators should also be allowed to split 5% of assessed fines, and thereby attract and retain the best of the best.

          Also, contracts that heap risk onto a 3rd party without them sharing in the reward should be null and void. This business where CDS exposure is effectively assumed by the public has got to go.

  48. Pepe

    The system isn’t really reformable anymore – certainly not through the act of merely voting. Does anyone have the will to actually make the politicians fear the masses? Would that even work, as we descend even further into a police state?

    We are the frogs in the pot as the temperature is gradually increased. The water is nearly boiling.

    At this point, we just have to wait for the inevitable collapse.

    1. K Ackermann

      Actually, it will work, but it’s not pretty. It would work much better if we could get over this contrived left/right thing and united in common interests.

      The government is not going to give ground on its own. It has to be forced to, and the least violent way to do that is if everyone stopped paying taxes. Just the threat of it should be enough, because letting it actually happen would be game over for all vested interests. It would be ugly for everyone, but especially ugly for TPTB.

      There is the possibility of a constitutional convention, but even if 38 states managed to get on the same page, united in cause, there is no guarantee that Congress will recognize it because there isn’t any precident and the rules are unclear.

  49. Lawrence N Allen

    “We don’t have enough votes”. This is what progressive democrat Barbara Lee has been whining about for nearly two decades. It misses the point entirely. The democratic wing of the Democratic Party serves as an enabler, making it appear that the Democratic Party has a soul i.e. liberal values. Tea party republicans make it appear that the Republican Party has conservative values. Faces change, manner of speaking changes, but policy remains the same. The corporatist duopoly has no values. The American people are being played like a violin. The progressive democrats will never control the party. That would imply a policy change which is forbidden. I thought progressive meant baby steps in the right direction. How is that possible when the country is taking giant leaps in the wrong direction. Case in point: turning health care over to the small cartel of insurance companies that broke it in the first place. Corporatism has nothing to fear from Democrats or Republicans. Only third parties are a cause of concern which is why third parties are being stamped out around the country with a vengeance.

  50. Matthew G. Saroff

    Much of the problem is that the liberal orgs, like MoveOn, parachute in, and drop their money and get very little effect.

    When people talk about Howard Dean’s success with his 50 state strategy, it’s all about contesting every district, but that was really the minor part.

    The major part was that the DNC devolved money and other resources to the state and local level, who were able to create boots on the ground.

    Groups like MoveOn are in reality highly top down, and top down is less efficient.

    1. CB

      Sometime last autumn, the self identified liberal and progressive groups held a national convocation………..in DC. Telling. I joked that I had no idea DC was mid country, I thought it was somewhere in Nebraska or thereabouts. (Lebanon, Kansas, actually.) But DC? No, I don’t think so. Only in their crabbed minds.

  51. lark

    The left needs to move away from identity politics.

    Yes, respect in word and deed. But the political agenda needs to be about restoring prosperity and economic security – and hammering home the responsibility of right and neo-lib policies for our national decline.

    This items actually shows the problem, by saying that the left candidate should have run on decriminalizing drugs. Huh? While jobs and health decay, that should be an issue? That is just clueless.

    1. Nathanael

      Legalizing marijuana:
      (1) makes a lot of people happier and calmer. If you wanna get re-elected, this is wise.
      (2) eliminates a vast amount of wasteful spending on prisons and home break-ins by police.
      (3) reduces the violent crime rate substantially
      (4) creates a huge, booming legitimate business. Jobs! There are many reasons FDR decriminalized alcohol, but this is one.
      (5) increases governmental legitimacy, because it’s no longer trying to do the impossible.
      (6) creates a large and reliable source of tax income. Assuming you tax marijuana!
      (7) Based on evidence, would probably actually reduce marijuana abuse.

      The benefits are substantial, and many of them are actually economic.

  52. Nathanael

    So neither candidate in either race was really an out-and-proud leftist.

    OK, I don’t think these races say much.

  53. Jennie F.

    Ever stop to think that maybe Sheyman was just a bad candidate? Twenty-five years old in a very wealthy and older district. An inexperienced screw-up my many accounts who jumped the gun rather than gain experience and respect. Used outside contacts to start a hateful, negative robocall campaign that people in the district still talk about with anger. Without considering these things, you read way too much into this election.

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