Why Anti-War Purity Tests Are Not Sound Political Strategy

From time to time, we’ve written about the concept of obliquity, which is that in a complex system, i is impossible to identify a simple path to achieving your objectives. You do not have an adequate grasp of the terrain to do that. Thus people who seek to be happy seldom are the happiest people. Companies that focus on maximizing shareholder value perform less well on that metric than others in the same industry that have loftier, more complex goals.

Politics is particularly subject to obliquity. With the participants regularly engaging in hidden moves and Game of Thrones level sabotage (as well as more than occasional use of sexual favors), it is remarkable that anything ever done. And it is too easy to reject the validity of time-tested truths, like “Politics makes strange bedfellows”. For instance, Roosevelt’s ability to implement his New Deal program was not a downtrodden masses versus feckless elites program, as it is often simplistically portrayed. Roosevelt had the support of what were then the progressive business forces of his era, firms that had strong export businesses (the precursors of our multinationals). They were more willing to ward off the perceived threat of Communism by making a deal with labor because the high value added of their manufacturing operations gave them leeway to make economic concessions (mind you not that this wasn’t true of other businesses but companies with high profit and growth potential in a more normal environment had both more to gain and more to lose).

If one is paying attention, it isn’t hard to notice that much of the country is against our level of military spending. Members of the armed services (overwhelmingly the troops and their families, and to some degree, even the leadership) are either opposed to how US armed forces are overextended by multiple tours of duty in the Middle East or pragmatically recognize that this isn’t a sustainable strategy.

Yet despite where the weight of political sentiment sits in the US, the ferocity of Russian warmongering in the wake of Trump’s victory showed how deeply committed highly influential insiders are to keeping the military machine running on overdrive.

Anyone who opposes the US imperial project is inherently an outsider. If they weren’t one already, they would rapidly become one. Look at what happened to Martin Luther King, held in high esteem as result of his civil rights victories. The press and public sentiment turned on him when he opposed the War in Vietnam. His assassination restored his reputation; who knows if he would have been treated as well by history despite the seminal role he play if he had instead had his opposition to the war when that stance was seen as unpatriotic largely airbrushed from his record.

Another issue to keep in mind is that in battle, reinforcing success is a sounder strategy than sending resources to units that are floundering.

How does this translate into thinking about candidates? It implies that it is naive and self defeating to demand that a “progressive” or bona fide leftist candidate oppose war as a major platform position. Mind you, that it not the same as opposing hawks. And other efforts to build coalitions to oppose America’s costly and corrupt imperialism are important too. But this is a multi-fronted battle, and approaches that are useful in one arena do not necessarily translate into another. Winning in politics is first and foremost about picking winnable fights, scoring victories to gain credibility, skills, and get others to join a successful campaign, and only then moving on to more entrenched targets.

So if an otherwise sound candidate doesn’t campaign on “more war” and gives only at most tepid support, that is far more pragmatic and more likely to win against the war machine in the long run than going after it head on.

Our Marina Bart gives more detail in this exchange in comments two days ago:

April 24, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Warren, like Sanders, is a faux progressive because, like Sanders, she does NOT challenge the U.S. empire and its imperial, interventionist foreign policy.

Until Warren and Sanders start talking about closing the more than 700 U.S. military bases in 70 countries, stopping the deployment of Special Ops teams in more than 130 countries, ending the seven illegal wars of aggression the U.S. is now waging, and cutting the national security budget (one TRILLION dollars a year!) by at least 50%, they should not be considered progressive, just pro-war liberals…

Marina Bart
April 24, 2017 at 5:28 pm

What mechanism are you suggesting we use to kill the war machine?

This is my understanding of the available options:

1) Electorally;
2) Civil War or Violent Revolution
3) Massive citizen unrest that results in enough damage to capital that it retreats once again from open imperial conquest.

Let’s briefly address each, in reverse chron:

Re: #3 — The elite we are dealing with is a global elite, with obscene amounts of stolen wealth that is highly mobile, and properties all over the world. And even during the “Vietnam War” malaise years when the MIC had been somewhat penned in and prevented from launching overt military campaigns, “we” still used the CIA and other arms of the imperial state to overthrow governments not to our liking and clear out whoever and whatever stood in the way of a multinational’s ability to extract monetizable resources all over the world. Just how much damage to capital would need to be inflicted for them to call off their dogs, which is what the US military is? How many people would have to die in urban riots and conflagrations at the hands of our excessively militarized domestic law enforcement agencies, down the the county and town level?

Personally, I believe we have all evidence we need that the bloodshed necessary to also burn down enough corporate buildings and make it meaningfully awkward to enjoy one’s twenty million dollar Manhattan apartment would be extensive. I don’t want to find out how bad it would be. I want to find a less violent way to end state-engineered violence.

Re: #2 — Do I have to detail here how an actual Civil War or Revolution would be even MORE brutal and violent, leading to the loss of even more life, with an outcome even less guaranteed to be the one that we prefer? As a reminder, it’s pretty clear at this point that the South won the Civil War; it just took them a while.

Now, let’s look at option #1 — The only potential option I’m aware of that could bring change peacefully. I will stipulate to start that our electoral system is profoundly corrupted. Simply relying on the “democratic process” wouldn’t work, because we are in no way a democracy. The two parties that control the system utterly won’t even let all American citizens vote, or have their votes counted if those ballots would lead to “unacceptable” desires and outcomes. So even an “electoral” strategy is fraught with difficulties and would necessarily require some degree of citizen protest and destruction of property, to put some force behind the expression of discontent, and drive home to the elites that the people really have become ungovernable being whipped down the neoliberal path. Remember, even an election they have to steal sends them a message. The Democratic Party, run by incompetents though it may be, knows perfectly well its traditional base now hates them*. That’s why they’re trying to steal the Republicans’ base.

But back to option #1: The theory of change being advocated by me, and I believe by Naked Capitalism, is that if we focus on the universal benefits most Americans desperately need, we will energize and awaken a massive coalition with the potential to break the chains and escape the pens we’ve been herded into on our way to the slaughterhouse. If that coalition can be brought together quickly and effectively enough, we can scare off some low-hanging courtier donations the establishment Dems rely on, while putting them in a status bind: their personal status relies in part on their sanctimonious pretense of virtue; without that, what are they? They are deeply invested in this idea of themselves as kind, loving and diverse — see pretty much every tweet from “Chelsea Clinton” of 2017. Taking that identity away from them has many benefits, in terms of everything they care about. Remember, when your material needs are met (and for all Democratic Party functionaries, they are in spades), your psychological needs become paramount. They do not want to accept that they are exploitative warmongers. Believe me. I have directly and personally confronted Democratic trust fund scions on this and faced immediate, life-threatening blowback. The oligarchs aren’t going to fund the Democrats as robustly if it’s clear they can’t get the presidency back,

So, this campaign for universal benefits, which Bernie is pushing for from inside the belly of the beast, creates and energizes a status-quo shattering coalition, while destabilizing the Democratic Party and draining it of funding and allegiance. It weaken our opposition — the Democrats — while fueling our funding and activism. Because the Democrats are already so weak in terms of governing, it offers the opportunity to purge them out of the apparatus of the party, which then offers the opportunity to change the current electoral dynamic. If leftists controlled the Democratic Party in California, 2016 would have gone very, very differently. Among other things, a lot of leftist ballots would have been counted that were shredded or flipped. With each increase in power inside the party system, the left gains the ability to protect the right to vote and have that vote counted, moving us closer and closer to something like actual democracy. The Democratic Party cedes both ideological ground and access to the levers of party power.

Americans don’t want war. There is consensus on the actual left and the segment of the right that actually sends its members to fight about this. In an election where everybody got to vote and have their vote counted, we would have less war. And if we could get universal benefits flowing, that dynamic would strengthen.

You want to push to cancel the war economy first, to pay for the benefits. But I don’t see the coalition for that working. We only have two parties, and both are officially dedicated to war. The Dem/CIA coup was to bring apostate Trump in line. We can’t end the warmaking electorally (i.e., relatively peacefully) until one of the two parties is controlled by anti-war forces. To do that, we have to purge the warmongers out of the Democratic Party (there’s no point in trying this with the Republicans; they have actual governing hegemony). To purge them out, we have to energize people along viscerally urgent lines. Which gets back to why pushing for universal benefits FIRST makes both strategic and moral sense. (Let’s not forget that the United States government is colonizing and brutalizing its own people in massive numbers, every day.)

My strategy has the added benefit that we don’t actually need to start by cutting spending to deliver those benefits. We can use benefits payments to change the political economy, and after gaining power, start to pull all that stolen tax money back into our coffers for the peoples’ use, and correct our budgeting priorities to shrink the military way, way down, and start using it for national defense, rather than corporate wealth acquisition.

Explain to me how your strategy would work to achieve your goal.

* There’s a pertinent section in Shattered, apparently, explaining that after Bernie beat Hillary in Michigan, the Clinton campaign made the decision to avoid it in the General Election. It wasn’t an accident. It was precisely as I had suspected: they recognized that the working class now hated them and their policies, and they had no intention of changing either. They figured they could herd enough black working class voters in Detroit (and fake even more, as per the data from the aborted recount) to still win, as long as the rest of the discouraged and alienated former base didn’t remember there was an election happening. They were literally relying on the people whose jobs, homes and pension they had stolen not being informed enough to come out to vote for their opponent, and that their opponent would be unwilling or unable to reach out to those voters. Which worked out as it should have; it’s such a pleasing surprise these days when that happens. Also: not Putin.

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  1. Jay Pizzay

    TL:DR; It’s better (and path of least resistance?) to take over the Dem party and remake it than it is to make a clean break and start a new party? The article mentions a mechanism where the oldsters/neolibs/neocons can be purged from the party, but I don’t see that happening currently.

    1. different clue

      The ONCs won’t give up on their own. They will have to be defeated the way the German Army was finally defeated within Germany in WWII. That will be a long hard fight against the ONCs, who will have to be “exterminated” from all their underground dug-in bunker positions one by one by one.

    2. Temporarily Sane

      Yup, agree, trying to “reform” the neoliberal infested Democrat Party is a fool’s errand. The point of no return is waaay back there somewhere in 2016. Ask Bernie…he spectacularly blew the last chance reformers had of influencing the party’s direction.

      The DNC and their FIRE industry sponsors prove time and time again they will fight tooth and nail to prevent a candidate who wants to remove, or even just limit, their trough feeding privileges from reforming their devious little insider’s club.

      One of the legacies of the 2016 general election campaign and Trump’s first 90 days in office is the 24/7 propaganda barrage that was unleashed against a candidate – who then became president – foolish enough to think he or she has any real independence from the agenda set by the people who pay to have the country run for their benefit.

      Anyone who deviates from the script now gets the Trump treatment…a coordinated attack by party apparatchiks and the mass media that will go ad hominem on their ass until they capitulate or otherwise get “neutralized.”

      The Brits have a similar thing going with Jeremy Corbyn who has been steadfastly attacked by the neoliberal Blairites in his party as well as the establishment media. The Guardian and the BBC don’t even bother to hide their anti-Corbyn bias anymore. From what I saw of the first round of the French election a similar modus operandi was used against LePen and Melanchon, the “outsider” candidates, while duplicitous neoliberal stooge Macron was hailed as the golden boy who will protect France from racists, Russian meddlers and anti-EU sovereignists while dutifully bombing Assad and supporting whatever imperial adventures the globalists have planned.

      It’s not just the Demosplat Party that can’t be reformed…it’s much bigger than that. The rentier class is pulling rank and deploying its power via the global media networks and political factions it owns. The game has changed. Incremental progress from within a Party framework is a relic of a bygone era. Every politician who has, or potentially has, influence over policy has to demonstrate ideological purity or they will get taken down. And the tactics deployed by the neoliberal cabal work. (Owning the vast majority of the western media has many benefits!) The sooner the opposition realizes and accepts that their old tactics no longer work, the sooner new tactics can be developed and used.

      The biggest obstacle right now is the inability, or unwillingness, of people to accept the scary new way of the world and the entire mainstream media apparatus telling them it’s the Russians or LePen or Trump or Corbyn that is the real problem and not the political and economic power structure itself.

      Yeah it seems pretty hopeless but things have a way of changing quickly. All it would take to get things rolling is an articulate, charismatic and genuinely dedicated leader who can tap into the worries and fears that people repress or deny and show them how the current order is screwing them left, right and center (ha) and articulate an alternative vision that is grassroots and strong enough to transcend media influence. Perhaps more people have to feel the bite and burn of destitution first before they become receptive to radical change. And any budding MLK will have to contend with a burgeoning reactionary right that offers extremely toxic “solutions” but shares a lot of common ground with libertarians and the old-school left when it comes to diagnosing the illness inflicting the western body politic.

      Okay I will stop rambling now.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        We are not suggesting reform. We are advocating a hostile takeover from the bottom up. The mainstream Dems have no bench and are preoccupied with the patronage opportunities of controlling the Executive Branch. They have not just ignored state races. Hillary literally sucked funds out of them (as in extracted virtually all of the $ from state/Federal fundraisesrs where the money was supposedly going mainly NOT to her but the Prez campaign then appropriated something like 90%).

        The Berniecrats have already captured important parts of the Dem apparatus in CA.

  2. Kurt Sperry

    I like Marina’s argument and mostly agree but it’s important to remember that there is no incentive for the DP to reform as long as they have have political influence to sell. They must first be weakened and starved of resources–and political power–before reform efforts will find any traction. I think that means in the near term that we cannot give any aid to the party where that aid is administered by the party, and that we should vote Republican (or at the least withhold our votes) when there are no reformist Dems on the ballot to vote for. To reform the DP, it must mostly be torn down first, and that in practice necessarily means allowing Republicans to win any contests where there are no reformers to vote for.

    1. Adamski

      Problem of being prepared to allow Republicans to win is that if efforts to drag the Dems leftward fail, or the results considered inadequate, they will have moved policy to the right in the meantime. Thus: not voting Clinton meant Trump, but this result could be ignored by the leadership the same as votes for Nader were ignored. Meanwhile, if he gets his hyper-Bush tax cut for the rich, it will have made the 1% stronger than they were in 2016.

      Aid administered by the party? Agree 100%. Don’t give a penny to the DLCC, DCCC etc. Only to candidates you like

      1. different clue

        One thing I think I have just lately finally noticed is that the Dems and Reps have long played the deficits and debt rises and falls racket. The Reps are brought into office to increase debt and deficit in order to give a few couple trillion dollars to their social class comrades. Then the Dems are brought into office to re-raise taxes on the non-rich and reduce deficit and debt. When it is reduced enough to fill another pool of notional money for the Reps to steal for the upper class, the Reps are brought back in.

      2. Nancy Sutton

        I quit giving any $ to D party groups when they cut Howard Dean off at the knees (why he supported HC, I’ll probably never know). I even voted Rep for first time (I’m 70), i.e., Trump, because I agreed with Sarandon, who said, on Chris Hayes’ progarm (to his jaw dropping astonishment) she ‘knew friends’ who were … going to do that.. because the sooner the crash comes, the better our survival odds … I did it for my kids’ future. Sometimes the cure feels worse than the disease…

        I think we need to work on communication… repeating ‘memes’ i.e., “no more DNC/RNC stooges”, “enough is enough!!!” “the economy has been rigged long enough / Wall St criminals have walked free long enough / DC has been corrupt long enough”… the fact that Dem apparatchiks cannot get some memo points together, and repeat them ad infinitum tells me volumes… the Repubs are experts at this. I think such ‘bullet points/soundbytes/memes etc.’ will resonate with Libertarians, many thinking Republicans, independents,etc.

    2. jrs

      The thing is if we vote Republican there will not be enough of anything left to save by the time the Dems finally decide to reform.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        This supposes that meaningful differences exist between the current Ds and Rs, and what one personally considers “meaningful”. My take is they both work for mostly the same handful of billionaires and while some differences no doubt exist, these are more often instances of conscious branding differentiation than they are of fundamental substance. Sanders was meaningfully different, could have won the presidency for the Ds and the DP, having read the polling data, surely knew that but went ahead and sabotaged Sanders’ bid anyway. This, to me, laid the game bare. When team “A” would rather lose to team “B” than to embrace meaningful popular change and win, in a real sense teams “A” and “B” are in reality the same team. They are working together cooperatively with stymieing popular change as their shared purpose.

        I, having watched the US political scene for decades, have arrived at the conclusion that almost nothing good can happen as long as the DP is strong enough to prevent it. That’s their role in the duopoly, to keep anyone remotely left from gaining power and to do so by steadfastly filling and occupying all the places in the political machinery where actual left wing politicians would need to be to cause any real change for the better. Your carefully cultivated fear of the R half of the duopoly is the trick they employ to keep your eyes diverted from the big swindle. Once we have lost our fear of the R boogeyman, we are suddenly free to act in our own interests, rather than to identify with and mindlessly and reflexively support whatever direction the D half of the duopoly pushes us. The very crux of our despair, the TINA narrative, can only exist as long as we buy into the fear motivation the Ds use to control us and to limit our political possibilities to those approved by their billionaire masters.

        Can playing real hardball with the establishment DP–meaning being willing to oppose it or at the very least withhold our support–result in short term regressive policy outcomes? Of course, that’s their stick, their fear totem they use to control us. But there is no other realistic path to meaningful change I can see. It’s not the perfect way; it’s not even a good way. But it is the only way. As they would say, “there is no alternative.” The Democratic party must be brought to its knees, to lose its power and influence to the extent that it is no longer useful to the .01% before their vice-like grip can be pried off it, or it can be supplanted and replaced by a new party. They will never, ever, ever allow the left to gain hold of the party any other way. We aren’t potential allies to them; we are an existential threat, something the RP will never be. Thus we, not the Rs, are their real enemies. They clearly see this and we largely still don’t, and our illusions otherwise, disempower us.

        I wish there were a path to meaningful incremental change, but when one sees the real purpose of the DP–to prevent the left from gaining any meaningful say in policy–it becomes obvious that change is completely counter to the very raison d’être of why the current party exists.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      What you miss is something we’ve pointed out a few times: the Democrats have become all about the patronage of the Executive Branch and its revolving door goodies. Look how Hillary was allowed to suck all virtually all the money out of supposed state-leve fundraising in 2016 (yes, some was to go to her too, but the presumption was not much). The part hemorrhaged losses at the state and local level for decades and no one cared much.

      Sanders is engaged in a takeover of the party from the bottom up. He’s already captured big chunks of the party apparatus in California. The fact that the Democrats are running the Unity tour, as in giving Sanders a platform, says they know they have to contend with his voters. They amusingly think they can win them over when more exposure of Sanders works for him and against the Dem hacks.

      1. gepay

        I think the system is so corrupt it is not fixable. instead of medicare for all – we get obamacare The Dems didn’t even include giving Medicare the right to bargain with the pharmaceutical industry. .the libertarians want small government but we need a government powerful enough to rein in the multinationals Now that corporations legally have the rights of people and money is free speech – campaign reform can’t happen.So Congress is now bought and paid for (or blackmailed by the surveillance state) so we have the worst of both worlds – Big government as a partner to big business – kind of the definition of fascism. So it wouldn’t matter if we somehow got the government to take away the ability of finance to create money and use it for their purposes as it wouldn’t be used for the general welfare – like Chavez tried to do with the oil wealth of Venezuela. Chris hedges points out correctly that progressives have lost the ability to get the needed reforms to make the “system” livable for everybody – not even talking about the people in the 3rd world but more and more here in the US or Europe Can you say Greece? EAst St Louis? Camden?. Look what happened to effective reformers in the 60s. The Powers that be are still smart enough to let people say what they will – when all is said and done – a lot more is said than done. a pressure relief valve. however if you are an effective critic of the system – then they will offer you a good job (how’d you like to be Mayor of Los Angelos?) if that doesn’t work there is the threat of jail and legal harassment. if that doesn’t work THEN THEY WILL KILL YOU Like JFK, RFK, MLK Wellstone etc So as Lenin said “What to do? What to do?- we all know how well his solution worked out. Just work to make your local communities function as well as they can. The system is unsustainable and will crash.

        1. Marina Bart

          Will you commit to not voting for corporate Democrats — at all, ever? Because if you do that, you are my ally. I’ll take staying home. Just don’t help them with money, energy or votes.

    4. different clue

      Unless I misunderstand Manna Bart’s comment, it isn’t about getting the current Democrat party personnel to reform themselves or have a change of heart or whatever. It is about purging and burning and exterminating them out of the party they currently call “theirs” so that we can take it over from them and call it “ours”.

      It will take several decades to completely conquer and completely purge and burn and decontaminate the current type of Democrats from out of the party. It will involve accepting Republican victories in many places as the price of making Clintonites unelectable. One purpose of making Clintonites unelectable is to weaken them down to where we can exterminate them from out of the Party. The other purpose of making Clintonites unelectable is to force all the millions of Republican voters all over everywhere to make a real choice between Real Democrats and Republicans. Which is a choice that Real Democrats will finally be able to offer and to force after the Real Democrats have exterminated every last Clintonite from out of the Party.

      That may also mean that millions of Clintonite scum filth garbage citizens will never ever vote for Real Democrats. Let them vote for Republicans, then. We can only hope that eventually the Real Democrats will attract enough Deplorable diamonds-in-the-rough to outnumber and more-than-make-up-for the vile Clintonite scum voters which the Real Democrats will lose forever. And should accept losing forever.

      1. Phillip Allen

        “It will take several decades […]”

        This presupposes that there are 30-50 years in which to wait for this gradualist approach to have some presumably positive effect. I find it very difficult to see anything of the current US political arrangements surviving too many decades ahead – since neither the economic nor environmental conditions for the continuation of life as we live it today will be present. Collapse will overtake all of these speculations.

    5. zapster

      Recent party elections in several states have seen huge jumps in numbers of progressives taking over party functions. Also in local governments. It’s already underway.

    6. Marina Bart

      I think that means in the near term that we cannot give any aid to the party where that aid is administered by the party, and that we should vote Republican (or at the least withhold our votes) when there are no reformist Dems on the ballot to vote for.

      Absolutely. The other half of this strategy is never, ever voting for corporate Democrats. I’m going to pull something together that explains both halves and how they work together. Hopefully, that will work better than a comment reply focused on only one element.

  3. voteforno6

    There is something to the idea that change comes in bunches. Success in one area makes it easier for success in other areas. For example, look at the adoption of Constitutional amendments. It is extremely difficult to pass an amendment, by design, which is why we’ve only had 27 passed in the almost 230 years or so that the Constitution has been in effect. Those 27 are not spread evenly over that history; rather, they’ve been passed in bunches.

    So, where does this leave us now? There certainly is some opposition to our imperial policy, but I don’t see as much energy there as there is behind, say, the push for single payer healthcare. If (when) we pass Medicare-for-all, that energy won’t necessarily dissipate. It can move on to other areas. A lot of the same people who push for imperial foreign policy oppose many popular domestic issues, such as single payer healthcare, etc. If we can beat them in one area, it just might be a little easier to beat them on the next issue.

  4. reslez

    If you want to move the Overton Window you need people standing outside it yelling and stomping their feet. The war machine is a moral issue. Some people aren’t willing to compromise on core principles. That means they won’t support politicians who feed into war. We need people like that. We need more of them, because they’re a tiny minority who can’t win elections right now.

    We need to support politicians who meet us part way. And by that I mean concrete, material steps, not test-marketed zero calorie pablum like “opportunity for all” and “more education (for jobs that are just going to get outsourced)”.

    Where I disagree with Marina is on the Democrat Party. It’s proved itself over and over to be the place progressive movements go to die. The sooner all of us recognize that the better. Just look at the debacle of Perez/Ellison and the warmongering Russia hysteria stirred up by Clinton insiders the day after she lost. These people have no skill, no results, and will do absolutely anything to stay in control of the party. Party Democrats deserve zero support and none of Bernie Sanders’ time. I know that Bernie doesn’t have it in him to make a stand, but since he’s good in many other ways I’m willing to overlook it. The rest of us can make the decision for him. The Tea Party inspired fear in Republicans because they walked away. They poured all their efforts into primarying their enemies and took Eric Cantor’s head. The House Majority Leader! It’s time for the Left to do the same. In the spirit whereof: Pelosi now has a challenger. His name is Stephen Jaffe.

    1. Adamski

      Since the Dems are in a position to keep third parties out due to the simple-plurality voting system and lack of ballot access, you have to tae them over because you can’t replace them. It won’t be like Labour replacing the Liberals in Britain. Sanders sought the Dem nom and he was correct, if he had been a third party no one would care.

      “Political revolution” is what he says is needed because he can become prez and it doesn’t mean Congressional Dems will play ball and enact his programme. Therefore, constituent pressure is needed and presumably willingness to primary recalcitrant Dems.

      1. reslez

        Odd that nobody bothered to take over the Whigs or the Federalists, then. The available historical examples show that an existing party collapses and everyone decamps to a preexisting alternative.

        Feel free to offer counter examples if I’m missing something.

        1. Adamski

          Yes difficult ballot access law changes which were intended to prevent a repeat of the Populist Party like the end of the 19th century, and make the Dem-GOP duopoly permanent. No overnight rise of the Republicans and Lincoln again either.

        2. different clue

          BiParty Depublicrats changed the ballot access laws in the Twentieth Century to make sure no such Third Party would ever emerge again. So your example has been overtaken by events many decades ago.

      2. paintedjaguar

        2016 may have presented a unique opportunity. Bernie was correct to run as a Democrat, yes, but I don’t believe even he thought it was anything other than a publicity stunt. To everyone’s surprise he caught a wave and wound up as a serious contender. He accumulated millions of supporters, but before the convention it had become clear that the Dem apparatchiks would do whatever was necessary to deny him the nomination. At that point he had every justification to jump ship.

        What if he had accepted Jill Stein’s invitation to run as a Green? He wasn’t in the typical position of a third-party candidate – remember that Sanders already had the support of millions of voters. It’s unknowable how many of them might have actually followed him away from the Dems, but that black swan combination of events may have been the only chance in my lifetime to break the stranglehold of the duopoly status quo. Or not. I wish he had rolled the dice, myself.

        1. Lambert Strether

          I don’t. It would have been a debacle. I mean, would anybody really want to be associated with a party that bought into the Russian hacking of voting machines, as in the GP lawsuit? Start there. Then ask yourself how much sense it makes to accept leadership in a party that cannot, itself, develop leadership organically. It looks to me like the GP is doubling down on failure just as much as the Democrat establishment: Parachuting a national candidate into the election didn’t work in 2000, and wouldn’t have worked in 2016 either.

          It all depends on how you define victory. If your definition of victory is “spread socialist ideas as broadly as possible,” then Sanders did the right thing. Even if your definition of victory is “get socialist-friendly/socialist-leaning candidates into office,” Sanders still did the right thing.

    2. Lambert Strether

      The problem with the catchphrase that “the Democrats party is the place progressive movements go to die” is that there is no other obvious place where progressive movements go to live. And the Democrats will have to be confronted in any case. It doesn’t seem like that it’s possible to, as it were, turn their flank by creating a new party — the GP was again a negligible force in 2016; the DSA is showing signs of life, but is still very, very small — so what other option is there but direct assault on the citadel?

      1. Adamski

        Yep. If the Greens couldn’t scrape together 5% in 2016, they’re stillborn. They can prove me wrong and I’ll have to eat my words. That’s more to do with the electoral college needing an absolute majority and tending to give rise to a duopoly though, as opposed to simple plurality vote doing it in legislatures because of a spoiler effect (and in America due to ballot access difficult)

      2. witters

        “The problem with the catchphrase that “the Democrats party is the place progressive movements go to die” is that there is no other obvious place where progressive movements go to live….so what other option is there but direct assault on the citadel?”

        So this is where they all die (empirical premise 1), there is nowhere else for them to go and live (empirical premise 2), so they can only live where they die (conclusion), so (normative recommendation) go and live where you die and “assault the capital”).

        Zombie Logic at its very best!

        1. Marina Bart


          We’re saying ideally leftists take over the entire Democratic Party root and branch — which is possible because it is now SO weak, SO corrupt, and SO incompetent. Worst case scenario with this strategy is the rats won’t leave the sinking ship, but their donors and voters are both driven off by how they have been exposed as both weak and corrupt, which would help any national left third party struggling to be born.

          Go ahead and vote for a third party. Just don’t vote for a corporate Democrat. Ever.

        2. Lambert Strether

          If you think so.

          I just get tired of third party advocates who say “Taking over the Democrats always fails!” when their third party movements have also failed (and in 2016, embarassingly so).

          I also think, having viewed local politics in action, that those who seek to enter the muck and fight the good fight within it are deserving of praise, and not censure.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            And taking over the Democratic party most assuredly HAS taken place historically. See the rise of the horrible New Democrats. It is counterfactual to say otherwise.

      3. Marina Bart

        The problem with the catchphrase that “the Democrats party is the place progressive movements go to die” is that there is no other obvious place where progressive movements go to live.

        I love this whole comment, but especially this.

  5. Jim Haygood

    “We can’t end the warmaking electorally (i.e., relatively peacefully) until one of the two parties is controlled by anti-war forces. To do that, we have to purge the warmongers out of the Democratic Party (there’s no point in trying this with the Republicans; they have actual governing hegemony).”

    The R party is no more or less warlike than the D party. All of the disastrous wars of recent decades have been bipartisan affairs.

    In France, with its parliamentary system (as opposed to America’s locked-in duopoly), major parties were given a kick in the teeth in the first-round presidential election. This result gives hope that the Depublicrat duopoly in the US can be dislodged.

    If either party of the US duopoly goes down, so does the other. The brittle, 170-year-old extraconstitutional system cracks up and gets replaced — hopefully without violence. Thus, an equally plausible way to proceed with an antiwar agenda is to attack a weakened D party while it’s on the ropes and deliver a coup de grace.

    As an aside, while one can savor the rich humor of saying the South won the Civil War, American exceptionalism of course derives from the New England yankee mentality which combines an elevated sense of personal piety with complete self-conferred entitlement to chastise those who don’t share one’s values.

    Unlike other countries such as the UK and Brazil which ended slavery peacefully, in the US this mentality led to gross bloodshed. Now it is directed externally to other perceived wrongdoers who decline to accept our form of democracy.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Jim.

      To those outside the US, the explanation about New England / Yankees is interesting / insightful. From my UK, colonial and Roman Catholic perspectives, it seems like the concept of the elect in Puritan Anglicanism and Calvinism. I detected that kind of thing in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, both with roots in John Knox country.

    2. Adamski

      Huh? If you decimate the Dems, this hurts the GOP how? They still get elected. And vice versa. So yeah, take over the Dems. Then getting them to enact normal ballot access laws like in Western Europe will allow third party victories in future, and the Dems to be replaced in all or part of the country if necessary

      1. a different chris

        Not trying to speak for Jim, but I think his theory is, and I tend to lean toward it, that

        1) the Rethugs will have nothing and nobody to blame
        2) the new party(ies) will have the New Guy enthusiasm which is, for better or worse, a real American type of thing

        But really not sure of this or anything, see my other comment (if I get around to posting it)

        1. Adamski

          The Dems letting their agenda be set by the GOP is bad enough, but rooting for them in the hope it improves or blows up the Dems? If they pass hyper tax cuts for the rich, hyper deregulation and hyper privatisation does that mean the Dems or their replacement party will soon reverse it, and reverse it fully? (Assuming the GOP does get anything at all done under Trump.) Let alone do liberal stuff on top? Also the little matter of them being able to amend the Constitution as they like if they get enough additional state legislatures. Balanced budget? No income tax? More guns, less abortion? They can be disciplined when doing such stuff as they are with statutes via ALEC

          1. hunkerdown

            Have you not noticed the Parties help each other up when one of them is on the outs? The evidence seems to strongly indicate that the Parties are on better terms and of more common interest with one another and their cash constituents than they are with their voting constituents. That’s why they call it a two-party system.

            Also, kindly review Outis’ series on “What is Liberalism?” published here last fall. It insults and corrupts the discourse to use the word liberal as a secular synonym for holy or righteous or socialist.

            Anyway, laws can be repealed as easily as they can be made, but the ruling class doesn’t do so because they wish to cement their power over us by taxing us with complexity and asymmetrical information. Regular order is not dispositive, as the oligarchy’s several departures therefrom clearly indicate.

  6. David, by the lake

    I argue that the better investment is in building the local and regional communities that we will need in future decades and the next century, which will see the continued, sporadic, but inevitable decline of our empire. Reforming the present national system, I suggest, is not possible and attempting to do so will only suck up valuable time and energy better spent on other things. On the other hand, if we could get a constitutional convention to occur, and propose amendments for the states to consider which rolled back federal power or even dismantled the federal hegemony (for example, by creating a legal pathway for secession), that would be worth doing. Until then, I’ll vote disruptively, but otherwise work on our community garden and enabling local self-reliance.

    1. David, by the lake

      So in terms of the article, I suggest an option #4: quietly build an alternative system in the shadows while the imperial system rots and collapses of its own accord.

      1. HBE

        I agree. I believe reforming or “taking over” the dem party is too risky. The rot is too entrenched at every level.


        The internally strong, externally weak perspective comes from my view that the top 10% ownership of the Democratic party has much greater power within the structure it controls than without.

        At present I think of the Democratic party as a vampire starved of blood (trust and voters) it is internally weak as long as it continues to starve, but if it receives an infusion of trust and independents, from the inclusion of positive progressive candidates, it will rise again allowing the embedded rot which has spread throughout it’s structure to rise as well, and quickly smother those positive progressive candidates after it gorges on their voters and the trust they brought back to the party (like first time independent Bernie voters who ended up voting Clinton).

        On the other hand if positive progressives work outside the party (and not within the poorly functioning green structure) it continues to starve, it continues to lose trust, and voters. It grows weaker because it cannot feed off the positive progressives the way it could if they become part of the party.

        Personally I view it as too great a risk to allow another generation to buy into democratic party, through internal reform efforts only to become so invested in it, that when the rot (inevitably in my view) quickly dimantles those reforms. Another generation is unable to disentangle itself from the party and the cycle repeats.

        It is certainly likely based on the entrenched party structures, that the only way for the left to gain a foothold is through the democratic structure, then there is no other option but an attempt at reform. If however their is a path (which general public sentiment especially among the young, and poor seems to indicate) to a viable external party the dems can keep their rotting structure, I’ll not help revive it.

      2. Linda Amick

        I agree. The only option is building local systems that can be easily detached from most things federal. This same strategy is being applied by many countries led by China and Russia to detach from the global economic petrodollar/Swift driven system by constructing a parallel system which does not seek to replace the current one but rather to protect against the current one. Once the rot is too great and a system too complex it can not be rehabilitated.

      3. Lambert Strether

        There have been times I would have agreed with you; I believe that “parallel sovereignty” is the last of Gene Sharp’s methods.

        But at some point, the left must actually take power; the left must govern. It’s not clear to me how that can be done in the shadows.

        1. Marina Bart

          I’m also worried that simply abandoning the existing system to tend to one’s own garden literally and figuratively is rather privileged. The non-rich living in and around our sprawling metropolitan constructs are going to have a hard time doing that as the system dies. Lots of people in less urbanized environments may be in a good position to do it in terms of resources, but those are the areas currently being starved of economic resources, so those people are the ones already dying of despair in many cases.

          So outside a privileged minority, you get people with current economic resources to execute such a plan, but no access to the necessary physical resources, and other people with access to the necessary physical resources, but who may be too broken to execute such a plan due to their existing suffering from lack of economic resources.

          I’m happy to add “Option #4” to my list of things we should be doing concurrently. But I do hope those who focus on that put some energy into outreach to people and communities for whom this is going to be difficult to do, for whatever reason.

    2. dcblogger

      a constitutional convention at this time would result in a complete Koch brothers take over. The left is far too feeble at this time to take power.

      1. Lambert Strether

        I agree. One can only imagine what would have happened if Bernie had indeed won (as he probably would have). The same soft coup would have taken place, even with the same actors, but with the result of discrediting the Sanders program. Sanders may in fact have dodged a bullet.

  7. pretzelattack

    i believe trump is getting a lot of criticism on the right for reversing course on syria. those are the kinds of strange bedfellows those on the left that oppose the imperium need to get next to. the only reason king’s moderation worked was because he had people like stokely carmichael and malcolm x providing a threat, and burning cities reinforcing the message. i don’t know what the statement “the south won the civil war” means. they went through over a hundred years of poverty and backwardness after that war, their infrastructure didn’t recover for decades, slavery ended, and the idea of states’ rights has not prevailed over a centralized federal government.
    trump beat the republican party establishment not by being tepid, but by actively criticising republican dogma about the necessity of the iraq war; a reason some democrats preferred him over clinton. the inside game only works to change the system when there are credible threats if the system doesn’t change. the question is how much unrest is necessary.

    “I will stipulate to start that our electoral system is profoundly corrupted. Simply relying on the “democratic process” wouldn’t work, because we are in no way a democracy. The two parties that control the system utterly won’t even let all American citizens vote, or have their votes counted if those ballots would lead to “unacceptable” desires and outcomes. So even an “electoral” strategy is fraught with difficulties and would necessarily require some degree of citizen protest and destruction of property, to put some force behind the expression of discontent, and drive home to the elites that the people really have become ungovernable being whipped down the neoliberal path”

    i think the threats need to be at least as serious as those that marked the 60’s. if we were “only” facing widespread economic hardship it might be different, but in the present context of a looming climate catastrophe, and a trump who has turned out to be as much of a warmonger as clinton, in my perception, we’re going to need to put more than a little force behind the expression of discontent. i’m not saying that is desirable, i just don’t think we’ll be able to divert the train from going over the cliff otherwise. and maybe not then.

  8. Adamski

    Wow. Marina Bart’s post was marinated to perfection. Best comment I’ve ever read on NC, and thank you Yves for posting it separately or I woulda missed it!

  9. James Levy

    Because this is about my subject (war), I’ll post.

    This sounds a bit too much like Rebecca Solnit on economic issues–mustn’t make “unrealistic” demands, gotta stay on point with her issues (feminism, multiculturalism). Instead, above we are asked to not make “unrealistic” demands about killing people all over the world and diverting our own treasure to war and imperialism; we gotta stay on point with “our” issues (economic improvement for the bottom 80%).

    I don’t find this morally justifiable. In my way of thinking, things are either right or wrong, so soft-pedaling an obvious wrong (war, intervention, imperialism) because it would be easier (maybe) to push a worker-friendly agenda sounds a bit shady and compromised to me. I’m all for a pro-worker agenda, but don’t see this as an either/or. The point might best be to push a humane ethic and have giving working people and the poor a better life, along with not killing people overseas to enforce our rules and businesses on them be parts of a larger social message. Hell, neoliberalism began as a set of ideas about the world and then grew into a set of concrete policies and institutions. Why not a counterhegemonic message of brotherhood and solidarity? But I’m a Quaker at heart (no longer a theist so I no longer attend Meeting, but my heart is there) so downplaying the evils of war in order to get $15 an hour seems a sleazy compromise to me. However, since normative claims cannot be proven, this assessment is by its nature idiosyncratic.

    1. From Cold Mountain


      Asking people to give up their morals to win an election? Really? Where does this stop?

      There is a root belief that all progressives can rally around; Anti-Authoiritarianism. In that is all things.

    2. DJG

      James Levy: You’re back. Good. And your point is on target. Have we now reached a historic moment when trying to curb the endless wars for empire is somehow not a moral issue? A mere tactic?

    3. tegnost

      Hi James,Medicare for All is a material benefit to working people and the poor and it’s a fight that we currently can conceivably win. TPTB are focused still on globalisation and designing grifts programs that can be extended worldwide, uber would be global taxi, amazon global shopping, the PPACA global health insurance, all protected by patents and enforced through our various warmongering efforts. I think if we can win this one battle it can signify a turning tide from what has been a fusillade of losses for those of us who are opposed to the methods of TPTB, but I also think you and reslez have a point that someone somewhere has to take an identifiable stand asserting opposition and not compromising so that a good cop/bad cop dynamic assists the negotiating process.

      1. Marina Bart

        I also think you and reslez have a point that someone somewhere has to take an identifiable stand asserting opposition and not compromising so that a good cop/bad cop dynamic assists the negotiating process.

        I do, too. Nothing in this strategy silences anti-war voices. It’s merely that we would focus first on universal material benefits to build a winning coalition that conquers, not supports the Democratic Party, alleviate a lot of terrible suffering that’s happening right now, demonstrate that our leftist government can be trusted to deliver real universal policies that can immediately improve the lives of the left behind 90%, and set the stage to be able to take on the MIC and win.

    4. jrs

      I guess some fall on the principled side of the spectrum with regard to politics (the extreme here would be someone like Chris Hedges – that divinity degree he has sure shows) and others the more Machiavellian.

      Certainly if the moral side (and not the practical) is one’s concern then supporting Sanders even if he is not sufficiently anti-war is no better and worse than supporting Ron Paul even if one isn’t a libertarian economically. It’s all trade offs. At least those two *seem* to have SOME decent principles, which puts them above the like of most Presidential candidates on a purely moral basis. But what is practically achievable is another matter and I do suspect the war machine is pretty deeply entrenched so not an easily winnable battle.

      1. jrs

        of course we can be all strategic and say “I’m not focusing on war right now because it’s not winnable politically etc.”. And that might be.

        But are people in the rest of the world human? Seriously. Because in order to kill Iraqi children (and women and men) we have to not see them and not see them as human in some way.

        I’m tempted to go Godwin..

        Oh and it’s the same for 100 other things, we can’t see the people in island nations being swallowed by rising oceans due to climate change etc.. (not that it’s reversible at this point but the U.S. isn’t trying either). And famines due to wars and climate change and etc..

    5. Ernesto Lyon

      Solnit has deeply disappointed me over the last few years, especially since she has thrown in with the #resistance.

      This is different and better than Solnit in that Bart acknowledges the Dem apparatus is a problem that must be confronted and destroyed, albeit carefully.

      Solnit has gone full identitarian. Sorry to lose her sober insightful voice in the good fight.

    6. Elizabeth Burton

      No one said opposing war isn’t a moral issue, nor did anyone say it wasn’t important or demand that people not fight for their anti-war position. It’s telling that those are on that side immediately read such into what was said.

      The point made was that rejecting otherwise viable candidates because they aren’t blatantly anti-war at this stage of things is a lose-lose action. Likewise for any of the single issues that are on the progressive agenda. Right now, the goal must be to elect the most progressive candidates available, and in some cases that’s going to mean accepting that a Heath Mello isn’t a rabid pro-choice defender and accepting that he, too, has a conscience he must deal with when making decisions on abortion.

      In other words, it’s the fact he has a conscience that should be the most important factor, and that he is willing to compromise his personal beliefs in the name of that right-and-wrong the moralistic are so determined can’t be subject to compromise. To put it another way, if your attitude is going to be “my way or the highway,” you’re part of the problem.

      I have a son in the military and a grandson and a granddaughter of draft age. I also hate war, period. It’s global domestic violence that only satisfies the abusers. However, I am also old enough to remember how pointless the whole anti-war movement was 50 years ago for the simple reason that there were so many people who had more dire issues to deal with—like feeding their families. That hasn’t changed.

      Intelligent revolutionaries know that you can use hungry people for a short time as weapons against the establishment, but hungry people also expect to be fed. If you neglect that, they’ll go home. Napoleon said an army travels on its stomach—he understood that ideals are an excellent tool to rouse people emotionally, but if you’re going to actually achieve something you have to make sure their physical needs are met. When he forgot that, when he became convinced “his people” would follow him anywhere whatever the cost to them, he lost.

      We can’t afford to lose.

      1. From Cold Mountain

        To me, if I vote for someone who promotes war, it is a loss. For me, not voting is a win if there is not candidate who is anti-war.

        Every time you give up principle “to win” you lose. Anytime a politician wants to justify “feeding the hungry” or “Economic growth”, war will be their easiest option. War is FUNDAMENTAL to the capitalist machine. You may have missed those speeches in the 60’s and 70’s.

      2. Mark P.

        ‘Napoleon said an army travels on its stomach—he understood that ideals are an excellent tool to rouse people emotionally, but if you’re going to actually achieve something you have to make sure their physical needs are met. When he forgot that, when he became convinced “his people” would follow him anywhere whatever the cost to them, he lost.’

        Pretty to think so, but this is happy horsesh**t that’s utterly unrelated to the historical reality.

        Napoleon said an army travels on its stomach, because the innovation that enabled him to march his armies around Europe (and Egypt) was the levee en masse — the policy of forced mass military conscription of all able-bodied, unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 25 adopted after the French Revolution of 1789. These were much larger armies than the professional — often mercenary, as with the Hessians — armies of the other European powers and they had live off the land like locusts. And that’s what Napoleon was talking about.

        When he forgot that, when he became convinced “his people” would follow him anywhere whatever the cost to them, he lost.

        “His people” followed Napoleon into Russia in 1812 and when he was beaten militarily at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, and were still following Napoleon when he returned from exile on the island of Elba and was defeated militarily by Wellington’s armies at Waterloo.

      3. James Levy

        You and Yves did tell people not to fight for their anti-war position by saying it shouldn’t be a litmus test and therefore we shouldn’t disqualify pro-establishment people from getting our votes. The idea that Medicaid for all should be a litmus test, but supporting the imperial war machine should not, may, may, make some kind of political sense, but it does not pass any rigorous moral muster. I still think that it clouds your message, which should be clear as a bell–blowing people up for corporate interests, or letting them die for corporate profits, are both unacceptable. They can be shown to be interrelated problems, not radically diverse ones. I think the point is to link them, no delink them.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > The idea that Medicaid [sic] for all should be a litmus test, but supporting the imperial war machine should not, may, may, make some kind of political sense, but it does not pass any rigorous moral muster.

          Nonsense. #MedicareForAll is, relative to breaking up the military-industrial complex, not a heavy lift, exactly because it provides concrete material benefits in the form of health care. Win that issue, and you have the credibility to take on larger problems. Sequencing is a perfectly acceptable way to approach “inter-related problems” in public policy. (We also have a history of failure in the anti-war movement, and increasing traction in #MedicareForAll. I would urge that reinforcing failure doesn’t pass rigorous moral muster either.)

          We have a body politic that’s subject to multiple and simultaneous diseases and cancers, some acute, some chronic. If staving off the massive parasitical infestation (the health care system) is a necessary requisite to treating the cancer (the military-industrial complex), perhaps because only in that way will the patient be strong enough for chemo, than that’s what the doctor should do. That is, in fact, the rigorously moral approach.

          And, of course, both parasites and cancers are unacceptable. It’s sheer straw-manning to suggest that they aren’t.

          1. witters

            “If staving off the massive parasitical infestation (the health care system) is a necessary requisite to treating the cancer (the military-industrial complex), perhaps because only in that way will the patient be strong enough for chemo, than that’s what the doctor should do. That is, in fact, the rigorously moral approach.”

            Take that, the Rest of the World! These are rigourously moral bombs falling on you!

            I can’t believe the easy way Usians accept their violence towards others.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The beginning of wisdom is knowing what you can do something about and what you can’t.

              Please tell me what you propose to do. Trump gets the highest approval ratings from voters on his strike in Syria. Nixing progressive candidates who in your view are soft on war is a way to make sure progressives stay irrelevant.

              Progressives first need to show they are a force to be reckoned with. There is an opening on single payer. There isn’t on the war. As dc blogger said, you can’t even get meaningful numbers out to protest. By contrast, Republican Congresscritters not only are having to go into hiding over their Obamacare proposals, but even their own constituents are starting to demand Medicare for all.

              Your position is tantamount to saying you’d rather lose now and lose forever over your sense of intellectual purity than find a path for winning that offers at least a possibility of advancing an anti-war campaign later.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          That is utter bullshit. We NEVER said people should not oppose war. Do you have a reading comprehension problem or do you just routinely lie about what people say?

          The post in fact explicitly encourages people to find other avenues to try to move public opinion, which as we and other readers point out, is not with you on on this issue. People sort of support it in the abstract, but whenever the media starts thumping the war drums, public sentiment lines up right behind them. You need to devote your energies to solving THIS problem and not to trashing otherwise viable candidates because they are not vocally anti-war.

          And another flagrant misrepresentation of the post: no one is talking backing “pro establishment candidates”.

          You are either choosing to be dishonest or didn’t read the post. Neither speaks well for your intellectual integrity, meaning your morality.

          1. davidly

            Utter bullshit is it? Choosing a path that doesn’t speak well for his intellectual integrity? What about your choosing to ignore where your opinions clearly differ, in that he sees the abandonment of your so-coined anti-war purity test purely for the sake of your own pet purity issues as a default war position? You could have chosen to address that or agreed to disagree. But “bullshit”? Apparently he touched a nerve. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you take this tone with a reader. Call your currently stated position whatever you want, but an even remote opposition to war it ain’t, no matter what other sound emerges from your virtual mouth.

    7. H. Alexander Ivey

      In my way of thinking, things are either right or wrong

      Thank you for expressing your assumption so clearly. Now let me express mine: things are not either right or wrong, there is right or wrong in a context. I would agree that the USA’s fighting a war in the context of the Middle East is wrong, but the USA’s fighting a war in Western Europe in the mid 1940s was right, as an example.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I have to tell you, I don’t agree. The only way to be pure is to be a renuciate, to live the life of a penitant, abjuring the ownership of goods and dedicating oneself to service to others. That includes not getting married and having kids, since those require you to participate in an immoral system of consumption and coercive work and commercial relationships.

        Or put it another way: it is a little difficult to take lectures from people advocating moral absolutism seriously when they don’t come close to living it.

        And if the goal is to reduce the harm of our current system, moral rigidity is an ineffective approach. I posted this elsewhere on this thread but it bears repeating. From a 2012 post:

        And even in situations like the Holocaust, it is not as easy to draw bright lines as one might think. One particularly good discussion came in 2001, in an article by Omer Bartov in a review of a book describing how Bulgaria came to be the one Nazi state that refused to turn its Jews over to Germany for extermination:

        But the lesson is not quite so simple or so edifying. For we also learn from such instances that the difference between virtue and vice is far less radical than we would like to believe. Sometimes the most effective kind of goodness – I mean the practical kind, the kind that can actually save lives and not merely alleviate the consciences of the protagonists – is carried out by those who have already compromised themselves with evil, those who are members of the very organizations that set the ball rolling towards the abyss. Hence a strange and frustrating contraction: that absolute goodness is often absolutely ineffective, while compromised, splintered, and ambiguous goodness, one that is touched and stained by evil, is the only kind that may set limits to mass murder. And while absolute evil is indeed defined by its consistent one-dimensionality, this more mundane sort of wickedness, the most prevalent sort, contains within it also seeds of goodness that may be stimulated and encouraged by the example of the few dwellers of these nether regions who have come to recognize their own moral potential. As the great cosmological myth of the Kabbalah has it, the shreds of light that remain from the original divine universe may be collected only from the spheres of evil in which they now reside.

        1. Harold

          I can understand sequencing, but I don’t understand why we should have litmus tests at all — for purity or anything else.

  10. doug

    ‘As a reminder, it’s pretty clear at this point that the South won the Civil War’

    Could someone explain this to me? TIA if so…

    1. oho

      i’ll take a shot—

      ” it’s pretty clear at this point that the South[ern Elites] won the Civil War’

      1. ‘triumph’ of plantation/sharecropper economics in the 21th century via consumer debt;

      2. seemingly permanent cleavage of the bottom 90% via racial lines (not economic lines);

      3. engraining of ante-bellum cultural militarism of the old Southern, English-descended elites—something you didn’t see in their 19th century New England/pan-European counterparts;

      Arguably if you ran an experiement in which the old Union and Confederacy were two seperate countries—-old Union would look more like Canada or the Scanda-German countries due to cultural differences of 18th/19th century immigrants.

      1. fritter

        1. You’re forgetting the economics of northern factories at the time which thought slavery was too expensive.

        2. It’s never mattered where the split occurs in the lower classes, only that they are split. The other can be Irish or Black, it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.

        3. So the pan-Europeans were opposed to the slaughter of civilians and tactics would today be labeled war crimes. Not to mention the callous disregard of their own.

        when doug asked for an explanation I think he meant something plausible…

        1. Jagger

          3. engraining of ante-bellum cultural militarism of the old Southern, English-descended elites—something you didn’t see in their 19th century New England/pan-European counterparts;

          Don’t forget that the noble northern leadership promptly returned to exterminating the American Indians as soon as they finished up the American Civil War. Slavery bad, genocide good.

          I can’t believe anyone actual believes there is any real difference between Northern and Southern leadership. Both were and are ruthless and driven by power and greed.

          1. Susan the other

            It was the economy – and both sides were delusional – but the South more so; when war was declared every county courthouse in the rebel states mustered troops and appointed various officers; basic uniforms and food supplies were manufactured by commandeering the less-than-efficient cotton and corn mills. The officers actually were encouraged to embellish their own uniforms and dandied themselves up with scarves and feathers and wore swords. The South was a lost cause from the beginning because it had such a backward manufacturing base. And even with a better manufacturing base the North was borderline incompetent and only appears to have won because it had two tortured, inspired, alcoholic generals. It was a godawful bloody fiasco. The one takeaway is that the North prevailed ultimately because it held on long enough to out-manufacture the South which was as impoverished as a third-world country. We are never going to get rid of war until we find a cause for manufacturing that promotes peace.

            1. doug

              Wow. I thank you all for your explanatory comments; and our gracious hosts.

              And NTG below. I put my reply in the wrong spot…

        2. Lambert Strether

          I read a great slogan on the twitter the other day:

          Divide by race, rule by class.

          Although that takes no account of gender so perhaps:

          Divide by identity, rule by class.

          1. IowanX

            I made a Haiku:

            Divide us by race
            Rule us, if you can, by class
            Not for long, suckers

            You can make a rhyme with the last word, but this is a family blog.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        -The Confederacy had plans to be a colonial power in the Americas, bringing their civilization to the barbarians behind advanced technology.
        -the Democrats are the party of a Southern Democrat Bill Clinton who suspended his campaign in 1992 to make sure “justice” was done by executing a mentally impaired Blackman
        – legal system designed to target not only the poor but especially blacks
        -an elite aligned with a corrupt, old world elite. The Democrats revel in the praise of the likes of Tony Blair while espousing their international style versus the local rubes who are too poor to consider international travel and don’t even have passports. What a bunch of buffoons!
        -inherited power. The last election was “supposed” to be Jeb and Hillary. In a village of 100, that might be okay, (even the village idiots need jobs), but it’s embarrassing in a country of 300 million.
        -bizarre and outdated election rules and a reliance on custom. Democrats and Republicans have been huffing about political norms being violated in recent months.

  11. EoinW

    I still say what I have always said: the Charlotte Corday Option. Kill one and the rest will be afraid. The problem with these wars is that the people starting them and profiting from them never pay a price for the damage done. They have no reason to stop. But if one or two took an assassins bullet then this is a kind of blowback that might cause them to pause and think about the consequences. A less violent option could be to attack the infastructure that supports the lives of our elites. Bring down the DC power grid and see if they notice. In other words, support your local hacker.

    Does that mean I support Option #2? if it leads to revolution then that’s a risk one must take. After all, even though revolution has the potential to cause more violence and lead to loss of life there is a big difference to the violence currently on the table. It would mean Americans are doing the dying. I kind of think people in Serbia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen might be open to trying such an option. The problem is the USA, not just the US military. Plus I’m not convinced Americans are opposed to war. the only clear evidence in US history is that Americans oppose wars that they don’t win.

    Option #1 is for the clinically insane. In most western democracies(like Canada) the only thing decided in elections in my lifetime is whether one supports the current system(voting) or don’t support it(not voting). we don’t get a say on anything else. The problem is the system, not just the individuals who use the system for violence and profit.

    Regardless of ones favourite option, bringing down the system means self sacrifice. Not many people – certainly not in Canada – are at the point they are willing to make such a sacrifice. Thus the killing goes on – provided it is killing occurring on the other side of the world.

    1. Vatch

      the Charlotte Corday Option. Kill one and the rest will be afraid.

      Let’s look at the time line. Corday killed Marat on July 13, 1993. At the time, the Terror of the French Revolution was just getting started. After the killing, the Terror moved into high gear. I realize this might have happened anyway, but the point is that killing Marat didn’t stop the Terror, and it very likely accelerated it. The Terror is widely considered to have ended a year later in July, 1994, although high levels of executions continued for some time; it’s just that it was a different faction that was carrying them out. The historians tend to ignore the next 4 or 5 years until Napoleon becomes First Consul in late 1799. That led to a continuation and escalation of war for a decade and a half of war, followed by the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy.

      So did Corday accomplish anything good? She killed a creep, but she did nothing to stop all the other creeps from ruining people’s lives. Killing one may make the rest afraid, but they won’t change their behavior in a good way. Instead, they’ll double down on the oppression.

      Option #1, the electoral option, is the best — it’s the only option that won’t blow up in our faces.

      1. EoinW

        Fair points. The thing is that it gets very complicated analysing the origin of the Terror. I’d suggest what caused most of the violence from 1789-1814 was not the French revolution but the reaction to the revolution by Europe’s aristocracy. Had the great European powers accepted the populace uprising the revolution would not have been under threat and the need for the Terror would never have arisen. One can also speculate that had Corday targeted members of the aristocracy then, perhaps they might have reconsidered their counter-revolutionary activities. It was just too easy for the British elites to continue their endless war with Napoleon for over a decade because they were never personally threatened by such a war.

        Of course, Corday never had access to assassinating members of the European aristocracy. Times are very different today. Our celebrity aristocracy is as big a target as anyone could wish for. Plus today we, in theory, value human life much more than 2 centuries ago. A modern Reign of Terror would not be so easy to unleash domestically. And let us not forget that the men behind the Reign of Terror were all dead within two years. No Neocons by 2019. I can’t help but think the world would be a better place.

        Option #1 won’t blow up in our faces, assuming such an explosion isn’t inevitable. When the British Defence Minister talks about the right of a preemptive first nuclear strike and everyone accepts such talk as rational thinking then I have to question if we can afford to be patient and use Option #1. Only certainty with this option is that the killing continues over there, rather than over here. Which is great for my quality of life, however my conscience can’t live with continuing to put the burden on the innocent people over there. Especially when we, over here, are not entirely innocent.

        1. Vatch

          Yes, the wars were largely triggered by the various royal regimes surrounding and threatening revolutionary France, although I believe the French declared war preemptively against Austria and Prussia in 1792. That was before the Marat assassination.

    2. Lambert Strether

      The problem with optimizing for violent leadership is that that’s the kind of leadership you get when you “win.” And it doesn’t stop.

      I would have settled for the peasants burning the land records in The Great Fear, and no Napoleon… If the choice had been given to me.

    1. cocomaan

      Spot on, to me. I think some take on this “pragmatic” position only because the real costs in lives, livelihoods, and property are exported. If you lived in one of these warzones, you damn well better believe you’d want the US war machine shut down.

      I think anyone advocating the above position needs to read some literature from the warzones. I’d recommend Baghdad Central by Elliot Colla, a noir set in the titular city in 2003, as an example of what we lose with this imperial nonsense. Read some war poetry from one of our many humanitarian failures.

      This post also comes on the heels of yesterday’s post about widening your moral net to combat despair. This post is the exact opposite.

      Where are the Case Deaton studies about people in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why doesn’t Naked Capitalism post those? It’s easy to post the above when your moral universe doesn’t include these people. Medicare-for-All appears to be a principled position around here, but that’s only because the loss in lives is visible. People in NATO occupied Afghanistan have deaths from despair too.

      1. Eureka Springs

        Proactive peace is pragmatic, not aggressive needless wars having nothing to do with defense based on lies and economic entrapment. We are way past incrementalism being pragmatic on everything from MIC to healthcare since incrementalism hasn’t worked over so many decades or longer.

        One who is truly anti-war/mic doesn’t vote for Sanders who mutters Saudis need more skin in the game or Trump who thinks torture is great convince me that this is a means to sneaking our way towards sanity.

      2. jrs

        Maybe it’s really really F-ed up that people in those war zones can’t vote. They are affected by U.S. policy but have even less say in it than us belly of the beast (living in the U.S. empire) proles do. Maybe that is a great injustice. I know that isn’t going to change of course. But in a just universe maybe they would have a vote. Well maybe someday if humanity ever got some kind of global governance right, though it seems a long way off.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No it isn’t. This is a complete straw man.

      First, Krugman’s role is to kneecap the left. He regularly savaged Sanders. We are advocating a strategy for the left to take power. That is to push for and get programs that will reverse the pattern of government spending being socialism for the rich. Krugman by contrast will pump for whatever the Democratic excuse du jour for “you can’t have nice things” is, including the false claim that the US needs to balance the budget in the long term. This is about defining what a winning strategy for the left is, and that is to focus on winnable fights.

      Second, the anti-war fight is NOT winnable now. You do not have the public behind you. Trump has majority approval on his handling of the airstrikes in Syria. Of all the things he has done, this is what the public clearly likes the best. It is sickening but you are not going to make progress unless you understand the nature of the terrain.

      People are not protesting our wars. They may poll as not liking them in general, but golly gee, the US does something macho, the President gets on TV, and his ratings go up. The public does back our aggressions all the time. Until you break that, making “being soft on opposing wars” is going to trash viable candidates to no productive end.

      Third, by contrast, the pubic is mad and getting madder about healthcare. You couldn’t even talk about single payer in 2010. The MSM would ignore it. It was relegated to the blogopshere and even then attacked by the Dem hacks.

      Republican voters are now bringing it up in town hall meetings. You see MSM op eds on this topic. It has gone mainstream. The time is ripe for this issue and the left has the potential to take ground in a big way.

  12. Ignim Brites

    For limiting the MIC, secession by referendum and negotiation is an option or even via a constitutional convention.

    1. David, by the lake

      I’ve got a running list of proposals should a convention ever occur. Here’s my draft language re secession:

      Proposed Amendment #7 (Secession)
      Article 1. A State may elect to secede from the Union established by this Constitution.
      Article 2. A State shall affect its secession by a resolution of a two-thirds majority of its legislature, subsequently ratified by a two-thirds majority of a State referendum.
      Article 3. A seceding State shall assume its proportion of the national debt as of the date of the ratifying referendum, that proportion being equal to that State’s proportion of the national population as calculated by the most recent decadal census.
      Article 4. Any property of the United States within the territory of a seceding State as of the date of the ratifying referendum shall become the property of the seceding State.
      Article 5. Any former State, upon seceding, that desires to reinstate its membership in this Union must request admission as a State by Congress.

      1. dcblogger

        any plan as to how to make sure you will have enough power to control such a convention? it is not enough to have a program, you need some credible plan for acquiring power. the left is feeble as of this moment.

        1. David, by the lake

          The whole point of the convention is not to control it, but to crack the system open and allow the states (and the peoples of the states) to engage in open dialogue about what kind of adjustments, if any, they wish to make to the federal governance structure — more specifically, to allow that conversation to take place without interference from the federal government, who will of course seek to maintain its own power. Many issues aren’t left/right, but are rather federal/state. The denizens of DC have to be rendered impotent in the discussion if we are to make any headway.

          Recall, too, that any amendments coming out of a convention still must muster three-fourths ratification to become part of the Constitution. The key difference with respect to the previously-used amendment process is that here Congress is cut out of the loop.

    2. fritter

      This would only be possible if the South had won the Civil war. Succession isn’t an option. Texas or California, it doesn’t matter. The battle has already been fault, all the precedents set, all that is left is the dieing. Oh, and lots of profits rebuilding what was destroyed so there is that.

      1. David, by the lake

        If the above language was adopted and ratified, then it would be an option. And entirely legal.

      2. a different chris

        Funny with all the Grexit/Brexit discussion here, that we can even talk about succession with a straight face– what does the succeeded (is that the right term) state do for currency that won’t make succession a living hell?

    3. Lambert Strether

      > For limiting the MIC, secession by referendum and negotiation is an option or even via a constitutional convention.

      1) The Koch Brothers would own the convention

      2) For all such proposals, why would anybody follow you?

  13. Harold

    I am not very happy with calling an anti-war position a “purity” position. Isn’t a spectrum of opinion a good thing? That said, I also believe emphasizing universal benefits is a good idea, for now.

    1. From Cold Mountain

      Me neither. Because if war/no war is a purity position couldn’t we consider financial fraud/no financial fraud a purity position?

      1. cocomaan

        Or how about: “the drug war will always be around, it’s too entrenched.”

        To me, legalizing non-harmful drugs and opening others to research and targeted medical use as appropriate isn’t a purity position, it’s a human flourishing position.

        1. jrs

          I think the entire of the empire, it’s economy, the current economic system, and it’s major players depend on the empire and it’s militarism or threats thereof. I don’t think drug dealing is that central. It’s peripheral.

          And besides unless you are calling for total legalization (by no means just marijuana but heroine etc.) you aren’t really threatening the drug dealing system anyway, but merely some players.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      We were clear that this is with respect to rejecting candidates who are otherwise progressive because they do not take a forceful position against war.

      The post did not say, “Stop opposing war”. It said “stop rejecting otherwise good candidates because they aren’t diehard war opponents.” Sanders didn’t go to the White House’s NKorea war talk to Senators, signaling he doesn’t like the drift. That’s a weak show of opposition. A purist would deem that to be inadequate.

      And the post NEVER said stop doing what you can to persuade more people to oppose war. We just said at this juncture, this isn’t good electoral strategy.

      Rejecting a hawk is a different matter. There’s a big difference between being a True Believer and going along on some issues in politics because you need allies or don’t feel you are able to make the sort of case that needs to be made to be an effective opponent (and the MIC is a very very formidable opponent, do not kid yourself here).

      And I know readers here do not like to hear this but, as dc blogger points out, anti war rallies are thinly attended. Even though a majority of the country regularly polls as being against war, this is nowhere near as high a priority for them as jobs, the horrific costs of health care, rising inequality, and other economic justice issues.

      Moreover, when the US does get into specific engagements, like our recent attack on Syria, voters support it. So while Americans supposedly oppose war in general, they regularly fall in line and back our various military misadventures when we launch them, and then repent when the bills come in. This sort of reaction does not provide a foundation for making an anti-war campaign a winning electoral strategy.

  14. dcblogger

    I went to an anti war march the day after the strikes on Syria. Code Pink was there, the DC Statehood/Green party and a few other die hards there. Mebbe 100 demonstrators. The anti-war movement is far too week at this moment to be a driver of anything.

  15. John Wright

    If one wants to get an idea of how deeply embedded the military is in our economy, one can go to http://cotsjournalonline.com/

    COTS = “Commercial off the shelf” equipment.

    I have one of the COTS 2017 Industry event calendars and it lists 20 related events for May 2017

    Here is a sample of events

    May 1, Armament Systems Forum in Fredericksburg, VA,
    May 2-3 Joint Service Power Expo, Virginia Beach, VA
    May 8-12 IEEE radar conference, Seattle
    May 10-11 Land Electronic Warfare Technology Prague, Czech Republic
    May 15-16 MilSatCom, Asia Paciifc, Singapore
    May 15-18 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, Tampa Florida.
    May 24-25 Unmanned Maritime Systems, London, UK
    May 30 Undersea Defence Tech, Bremen, Germany

    Around the world, the USA military is a large, government sponsored, jobs program.

    To have any political success, those advocating downsizing the US military should lead by creating a jobs program first.

    Even the very capable and respected General Eisenhower would only mention his military industrial complex warning as he was exiting, not when he had political power.

    Here is from an earlier posting I made at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/03/civilian-control-of-the-military-is-over-welcome-to-civilian-subjugation.html

    “If I remember the video “Why we fight” correctly, Eisenhower was quoted as saying about the military “God help the country when we have a President who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do.””

    The speed and ferocity in which “the Donald” was brought into line is not encouraging.

    I am not optimistic much can be done, even with the optimal political tactic.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > To have any political success, those advocating downsizing the US military should lead by creating a jobs program first.

      Yet another reason to support a jobs guarantee (a further step after #MedicareForAll and a Post Office bank, both of which are easier lifts because well-understood conceptually).

  16. DJG

    All three of the options are overstated for effect. Protests are still an important part of the tactics against war (and class warfare). I tend to doubt that they will result in 100 or so million dead.

    Here is the kernel:

    “Americans don’t want war. There is consensus on the actual left and the segment of the right that actually sends its members to fight about this. In an election where everybody got to vote and have their vote counted, we would have less war. And if we could get universal benefits flowing, that dynamic would strengthen.”

    RIght now, the biggest problem with imperial wars is that that they go undeclared. The “don’t know much about history” populace lets them go undetected (Yemen and Somalia being prime examples). So insisting that politicians be opposed to overseas adventures isn’t a purity test, unless you think that George Washington was imposing purity tests in his warnings about foreign entanglements. Further, the U S of A indirectly funds wars through our friends the Saudis (Yemen) and Israelis (Palestine). One of the reasons that the Cyprus negotiations go on forever is that the U.K. isn’t going to want mention of its two enormous and sovereign bases there, which are used for imperial adventures in the Middle East.

    Also, and I’m going to be terribly patriarchal about this, so let the complaining begin, but I am starting to object more and more to women who have never been subjected to the draft or even required to register for the draft giving us advice on why war is a good thing. If you think that war is a-okay, please join the infantry. You can be in the same platoon as Chelsea Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Like most men, I was clued in fairly early about the horrors of war (For Whom the Bell Tolls, All Quiet on the Western Front, the USA Trilogy by Dos Passos, Whitman’s Civil War poems, for starters, and more recently Altai, Q, Kobane Calling). Someon seems to have missed a few weeks of class.

    1. Adamski

      Well. Protest is good, but even on an unprecedented scale it failed to prevent the imminent Iraq war. On the other hand, supposedly hastening the end of the Vietnam War was the concern that it would be too hard to control the inner cities.

    2. shinola

      Wanna reinvigorate anti-war sentiment?

      Tactic #1: Reinstate the draft – and this time include women.

      The prospect of having a daughter involuntarily sent off to war may jolt some voters out of their apathy.

      1. TimmyB

        Exactly right. The people who run this country have no skin in the game when it comes to starting wars. The Vietnam protests helped end the war. Evey male college student knew that once they graduated, the meat grinder was waiting for them. Every parent of a male child, rich, middle class, or poor, knew their child would be fed to the meat grinder.

        So once the war was over, the draft was also ended. That effectively gutted our future anti war efforts. When we start wars today, the majority of parents and young people don’t have a care about the meat grinder. So wars are allowed to continue indefinitely.

        Concerning an anti-war purity test, say what you want, but such a test is the reason Hillary Clinton never because president. Hopefully, astute politicians will recognize this, and conform their behavior accordingly.

        1. Oregoncharles

          ” Every parent of a male child, rich, middle class, or poor, knew their child would be fed to the meat grinder. ”

          Sorry, but this is more than half wrong. They call it “Selective Service” for a reason: they didn’t want EVERYBODY. So it was actually fairly easy to avoid, especially if you were privileged. The upper crust’s children didn’t go unless they were overcome with “patriotism.” Or masochism, whatever. Ironically, poor kids often didn’t, either, because they didn’t meet the standards.

          The upshot, and the other side of the coin: I avoided it, my brother did not (fortunately, he survived with minimum harm). And once he had a son “over there,” my father’s tune changed pretty quickly. Suddenly the evil was pretty obvious. So extending that experience, I think you’re right that a draft would change a lot of people’s minds. But I think you’re wrong that it would apply evenly; it didn’t before, and it wouldn’t now. Our society is now vastly MORE unequal.

          I was there, and I think what actually ended the Viet Nam War was a serious threat to social order. People were dying, here as well as there. This is route #2, I think it is, in Marina’s catalogue. However, it was not as extreme as she depicts; the deaths were relatively few, the threat to order well short of a threat to the government itself. Whether that would be true now, I have no idea. It’s a different time. However, I do NOT think that the kind of polite, orderly demonstrations we see now will have the slightest effect. They’re too easy to ignore. Frankly, and reluctantly, I think the Black Bloc have a point, though I don’t think they’re really doing it right. It would take far more people. There is no longer a revolutionary culture, as there was then.

      2. Waking Up

        shinola: I agree that reinstating the draft (including women) would jolt people out of their apathy. However, it won’t happen. A major lesson learned from the Vietnam War was to avoid a draft at almost any cost (far more difficult to promote war when people aren’t willing to die for imperialism). It is “easier” for those with money and power to keep the majority of people compromised economically. That way they get “troops” who lack other options AND they can profit handsomely from military arms and weapons sales. A win-win for imperialists, neo-cons, and neo-liberals.

  17. Roger Smith

    Are we really going to start invoking the lame “purity test” meme? That is something hacks are doing when they want to deflect from discussing the truth. It is a way to trick people into thinking their ideas, wishes, or demands are way beyond the realm of possibility, regardless of whether or not that is even true. Remember, “never, ever!” then take a look around at all the countries who already have national healthcare systems.

    While I understand the political strategy involved here, are we really going to say that calling for our leaders to take a stand against murder is “too much”? This sounds a lot like the same old establishment crap to me. This purity meme needs to be abandoned. We need to stop thinking about politics with singular identities, left-right-progressive-purists-conservative. To me policy based coalitions are part of the way forward. Stop the manufactured polarization and work on issues you do agree on, a less linear approach.

    1. Adamski

      Maybe the phrase purity test raises hackles, I can understand why. How about, ‘pick your battles’? I doubted Obama would end Iraq or Afghanistan (at least in much less than 8 yrs) but I still woulda voted for him over McCain. Similarly if Sanders gets the nom in 2020, it’s him and not the GOPer.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I think you are misconstruing who is the authoritarian.

          It was reader REDPILLED who was calling for what amounts to a purity test. He said progressives need to demand all the foreign bases be closed, along with additional demands. Please tell me what politician who holds office has that position. I certainly can’t name one.

          We were not telling readers how to vote. We are simply telling them what many do not not to seem to hear, that as the headline stated, this is “not sound political strategy”. There needs to be a ton more groundwork laid before candidates with that position have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected.

          1. From Cold Mountain

            K, let me rephrase; I don’t care about politics, I care about ending authoritarianism.

            And you need to understand the difference between legitimate and illegitimate authority is to understand why what redpill said was not authoritarian.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > Are we really going to start invoking the lame “purity test” meme?

      Yes, because there’s entirely too much high-volume/low-value whinging about it, and it’s tiresome. Besides, itself, being lame.

    3. Fiery Hunt

      We’re actually talking about governing a people who for the most part…

      1) Aren’t morally driven about the various Hells on Earth in their day to day lives.
      So, not caring about foreign brown bodies being pink-misted. Sorry, sad but true.
      2) Are, by nature and nurture, inclined to identify as Americans first, fellow humans second . So, militarism and “patriotism” are intricately linked. Not so sorry about being proud to be American, but find it very sad that “American” is stained with so much that is truly UnAmerican.
      3) Want to win. Whatever “it” is, Americans (and I suspect everyone, everywhere) want to be on the side that prevails. See Green Party, lack of interest.

      If you want to talk philosophy, that’s great. If you want to change the current political leadership…enough with the philosophy; on with the principled but intelligent political strategizing.

      As I explained to my mother, Clintonite who hates Trump and now wonders if Bernie should be listened to,…Bernie’s absolutely right, with honesty and integrity, about Domestic policy. On foreign policy, (I told her), meh.

      But he’s still the best we’ve got, by a long shot, and that’s not bad.

      In the end, people aren’t going to be what you (or I) want. But they may come along…IF WE”RE SMART ABOUT IT.

  18. Katharine

    Purity tests on the left are as ineffectual, and wrongheaded, as those on the right. When the Tea Party got a good foothold in Congress, it created worse than gridlock. It prevented essential business from being done, with real harm to real people. Having what you conceive to be a noble objective does not justify harming others, and wanton disregard for the harm you do does not win support for your cause.

    A. J. Muste said, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.” That means if you are serious about peace you need to concern yourself with how your actions affect others.

    When it comes to candidates, of course you want the best you can get, but best is a loaded term, like fittest in evolutionary biology. There are neither perfect organisms nor perfect candidates. You do the best you can with what you’ve got and leave what results you may, and you recognize that what candidate is elected must affect your subsequent action, either support or strong pushing to better choices.

  19. PKMKII

    While the left is quick to identify the industrial-military complex as an obstacle to overcome in taking down the war machine, there’s another, more subtle, one that’s essential to neoliberal and conservative ideology. The U.S. military isn’t just thought of as a defensive military, or an imperial military, it’s the world police. And what does leftist thought have to say about the function of police? To protect private, commercial property. Why would the world police be any different? Yeah, the military makes sure lockheed martin gets well-paid, but the bomb dropping isn’t done just to get them paid, it’s to neutralize actors threatening the free-flow of commerce across the globe. That’s what most of our conflicts in the post-WWII era have been about, that’s why we have ships and bases everywhere across the globe.

    So arguing to descale the U.S. military doesn’t just undermine lockheed’s profit margin, it destabilizes multinational capitalism generally. Less military presence global makes the movement of capital across borders a risky venture, cuts down profits. Look at what happened to the GM plant in Venezuela, imagine things like that becoming a much more common occurrence worldwide. So we must recognize that it’s the entirety of the corporate oligarchy that we’re fighting against on this, not just the arms industry.

    1. Marina Bart


      That’s why I’m arguing for a multi-pronged approach: the broadest possible coalition, aligned along the most nurturing kind of policy focus, as well as a both different electoral pathways (not voting/voting third party/voting insurgency/just never, ever voting corporate D), and different collective action pathways. I didn’t claim electoral action alone would work.

      I’m not guaranteeing this will work. But I think it’s possible, and I don’t see any other approach that is even close to feasible. I’m fascinated at these people coming in and willfully misinterpreting what I’m arguing so they can basically say, “That won’t work and you’re a bad person for trying to find a way to save lives.”

      I totally understand visceral moral disgust, and being impatient with where we are now. I don’t understand calling me names for suggesting that if we give basic necessities to desperate, suffering, exploited people, we can possibly both address that injustice and also set ourselves on the path towards a non-Imperial future.

      1. H. Alexander Ivey

        I just want to jump in here and say: “Hear, hear!”; and thanks again for your original posting and Yves placing it to the leader board (whatever the top of the home page listings are called), and Lambert’s Twitter find of “Divide by race, rule by class.”

        1. Marina Bart

          Thanks, H.

          I love that find, but I think Lambert’s edit to “Divide by identity, rule by class,” is even better. It gets at everything both teams do.

  20. Tyronius

    I’m extremely concerned that America has fallen into a fascist trap we will be unable to extricate ourselves from. A lifetime ago we went to war to stop fascist regimes. Now we appear to have become one.

    What happens next? History tells us that total war is next. Nuclear weapons makes this a terrifying thought, yet those who would be activists for pacifism are ridiculed, sidelined and ignored.

    Some of my friends have already begun digging bomb shelters. I only wish I was kidding.

    1. Foppe

      well, ‘we’ only stopped and undid certain aspects of those fascist regimes. And that’s the problem.

  21. landline

    Fighting for control of the Democratic party is a complete waste of time. Even if you get reformers in there, they will be co-opted, corrupted or shut out.

    In San Francisco, where I live, so-called “progressives”, actually mostly identity politics liberals or independently wealthy dilettantes, as best I can figure, fight to the death with “moderates” over the control of the DCCC. Corporate interests (real estate, tech and their legal courtiers) control the party no matter who gets elected to the DCCC. They get what they want. The rest of us get screwed, which, in this period, means getting kicked out of here by the real estate vultures.

    And that is in San Francisco, where we all love each other.

    I’ve seen this movie many times. Too young for McGovern, but Gary Hart, Jesse Jackson and now St. Bernard, who choked his chance at blowing up the electoral politics system.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > St. Bernard, who choked his chance at blowing up the electoral politics system.

      Oh, please. “blowing up the electoral politics system” wasn’t on offer. You can’t “choke” on an option that doesn’t exist. Be serious. And what’s the alternative? Sortition? The general assembly? What?

      1. SpringTexan

        Yeah, it’s actually kind of amazing that he didn’t fade away after the primary like most primary candidates. He’s done an awesome job of leveraging the options he actually HAD.

      2. landline

        Sustainable third or fourth parties. That would blow up the existing electoral system. Bernie choked his chance.

        Real change happens in the street. And it is coming; hopefully for better, probably for worse

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Oh come on. The system is designed to make sure they will never get anywhere. In 2016, with God-awful Trump and Clinton as the choices, the Greens didn’t do any better than they did in 2000.

        2. Marina Bart

          How is that in conflict with my strategy? Please read my additional comment below for more context.

          If you want to sit on your hands until the action hits the streets, you’re condoning and abetting more state-sanctioned violence. I’m trying to limit the violence at home as well as abroad.

        3. Lambert Strether

          > “the streets”

          A vacuous trope.

          Occupy (globally) wasn’t in “the streets.” It was in public squares. That’s actually important, in the sense that the real terrain of a battlefield is important.

          Ferguson began as a march but equally important was the strategizing in churches and homes, and even “hash tag activism” has a role to play, before the Democrats corrupted it.

          Key actions in France occurred in the chateaux, where the peasants burnt the feudal land records (that is, destroyed the records of rents to be paid).

          And so on and so on.

    2. different clue

      I visited San Francisco once for a few days. I didn’t get an impression of people loving eachother. I got an impression of cold robotoid a-human mechanoid impersonality.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        There was actually a recent article about this, by a young native describing at length how totally anti-social the city was, with just about everyone with their noses in their devices. Apparently if you try striking a conversation with someone (as in not homeless crazy person or evangelist type, just a casual pleasantry), you get a low-grade hostile reaction.

        By contrast, in famously brusque NYC, brief banter is normal.

        1. different clue

          I feel validated observational-skillswisefully-speaking to realize I am not the only one who got that impression. Do you remember the basic name and/or author of that article?

          ( There was fun stuff in San Francisco to be sure. I would like to go back for a longer visit . . . just making sure not to expect any niceness from the average San Franciscan in the Street.)

      2. landline

        I was being ironic. “Loving each other” is the mythology put forth by the civic boosters. You know, San Francisco values and all that.

  22. LT

    “For a very long time, for example, America prospered – or seemed to prosper: this prosperity cost millions of people their lives. Now, not even the people who are the most spectacular recipients of the benefits of this prosperity are able to endure these benefits; they can neither understand them nor do without them, nor can they go beyond them. Above all, they cannot, or dare not, assess or imagine the price paid by their victims, or subjects, for this way of life, and so they cannot afford to know why the victims are revolting. They are forced, then, to the conclusion that the victims – the barbarians – are revolting against all established civilized values – which is both true and not true – and, in order to preserve these values, however stifling and joyless these values have caused their lives to be, the bulk of the people desperately seek out representatives who are prepared to make up in cruelty what both they and the people lack in conviction…”

    James Baldwin – “To Be Baptized” essay in No Name In The Street.

  23. LT

    It’s easy to sit back and say “we can wait on stopping the bombs” is really easy when they aren’t being dropped on you or your neighbors. We expect universal benefits to be a long-lasting affair and that will require increased spending. The problem with waiting for dealing with the wars is that wars only begat more wars and each one makes more enemies in the world.

    Do you think FDR had 100 + more years of wars and invasions in mind when that administration pondered the New Deal? Probably not, because the arithmetic on that is sketchy.

    Marina’s letter suggests we can fight for and achieve universal benefits, then go after the war machine. Well, universal benefits of various kinds would put a damper on the spending on the military, but not the killing. Considering its targets of late are not other countries with militaries’, the military can do just as much damage with fewer grand weapons. Trillions have been spent over the last decades this way.

    The one thing that does not enter Marina’s picture is the specter of reparations for post-WW madness.Who really thinks the rest of the world will forever remain sheeple and not eventually, one day, bring the USA before an international tribunal of some sort? While the dream is to first fight for universal benefits here, and then fight the war machine but still maintain a national defense, there is a whole other world out there that could also have plans for the USA’s future spending.

    This country’s main source of defense has been two great oceans and neighboring countries on either side that have not had grand imperialistic leanings. Its second greatest defense has been a masterful propaganda machine. The greatest threat to any country will always be from within. Notice the USA’s military machine, with its allies of the moment or era, never enters a country without destabilization first occurring from within.

    The USA’s economy is a war economy. The culture of war is embedded in our institutions. Since war begats war, it’s hard to see a way for the world out of this mess. The one way that comes to mind would be the USA falling into Civil War again. Ironically, that next one could even be a Civil War over stopping war. The desire for war and the war economy is as deep as the old South’s attachment to its slave economy.

    If we have universal benefits, before taming the war economy, this becomes a country that funds its universal benefits through war. The benefits we have are largely funded through a war economy.
    These are not feel-good hypotheses, but neither is collecting universal benefits while the world burns (or smolders from burning). This country has more than many places in the world because it has taken more from many places in the world. If you cringe at the word “taken” then swallow “exerted control in many places in the world.”

    There is no “there” to get to other than more war with war. War either eventually (too much fear now) becomes the deal-breaker or it breaks us.

    Marina says it looks like the South won the Civil War. Well, on the international front, Germany looks like it might finally win its European wars.

    1. TimmyB

      For the US to become antiwar, I’m afraid we are going to have to lose a major war. Not a pleasant prospect. But given we are the world’s worst warmongering bully, with no intention for stopping our blood drenched ways, I don’t see us stopping until we lose a war as completely as German or Japan lost WWII.

      It took WWII to tame the most militaristic countries of the last century. Most likely, it will take WWIII to tame us.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > sheeple

      [gag. spew]. Insulting the voters is always such a great way to win them over…

      > If we have universal benefits, before taming the war economy, this becomes a country that funds its universal benefits through war. The benefits we have are largely funded through a war economy.

      No. That’s not how fiat currency works.

  24. Scotty_Mack

    Murdering the brown poors in foreign lands is okay because there is a slim slim chance that the Democrats/CIA might somehow become nicer if we keep supporting their imperial murder machine? That’s the biggest load of nonsense I’ve ever heard. If you vote for someone, and that someone kills people, you are an accessory to murder. You lent your ascent and support to a heinous immoral act. Rot in hell. I’d be curious to know if the author would feel the same if it was her family and friends being sacrificed. Would she support the bombing death of her loved ones in exchange for the minuscule possibility that the Dems/CIA might start caring about the will of their voters?

    As Yves pointed out, “Anyone who opposes the US imperial project is inherently an outsider.” We need to flip that around; anyone taking part in militarism should be the crazed and evil outsider, like racists or sexists. Stop giving credence to kabuki theater politics, and stop supporting politicians that kill.

    RIP Omar Awlad A’aziz, my friend, and all the other Libyans killed in Obama’s heinous invasion. Anyone who felt that his death was a “politically strategic imperative” can rot in hell. Anyone who voted for Obama, Hillary, Bush, and Trump can rot in hell. Anyone who feels that it is acceptable to kill more poor brown people in other countries on the off chance that Dems might start listening to voters instead of donors is psychopath willing to sacrifice others to advance their own political agendas

    1. Foppe

      That’s all well and good, but you left out the slide where the magic happens, to riff on that algebra/physics comic. That is, how we get from here to there.

    2. Marina Bart

      Would she support the bombing death of her loved ones in exchange for the minuscule possibility that the Dems/CIA might start caring about the will of their voters?

      I can’t tell whether this was aimed at Yves, or at me. But you’re inverting my strategy. I am not arguing we vote for corporate Democrats. I am arguing that we focus on universal material benefits to build the kind of coalition that will enable us to throw ALL the corporatists out of office and out of the party, or at least disable them so that a new party might thrive.

      No corporatist will back universal benefits. They have said so plainly. If we insist on voting only for those that will deliver universal material benefits, we have the votes, energy and grassroots support to purge the corporatists out of office, out of party leadership, and out of every level of the party’s bureaucracy. That’s the point. To get rid of the warmongers, who are ALSO the courtiers to power who starve, kill and exploit the citizenry at home, as well.

      I’m proposing a way forward to end the killing. If you think my approach won’t work, what’s your alternative? Because if you don’t have one, why are you bothering to attempt to morally shame me?

      Honestly, did you read what I wrote?

      1. Fastball

        You have focused on the one issue about which some people will not compromise. By turning war and peace into a purity issue instead of a deeply held first cause you are driving people away.

        I will not vote for, or support, anyone who is not vocally anti-war. And I will criticize them, again, vocally.

        Telling people to be silent is by definition a non-starter. Your alternative is not an alternative, is what I am saying. I don’t need an alternative to say that shushing people doesn’t, and never has, worked.

        I will not be part of a pro-war coalition of any kind. There are many people who feel the same. So you have a calculation in front of you — do you have vocally anti-war people in your coalition or not?

        1. Marina Bart

          Nobody told you to be silent, and nobody said this was a “pro-war” strategy. I am happy to have you in “my” coalition. The question is, would you support someone like Bernie, who has taken stronger stands than anybody else in national government I can think of against warmongering, even though his position is not aggressively and optimally anti-war?

          Would you back someone like Tulsi Gabbard, who is a military vet, but being more forceful right now than Bernie about how ineffective, immoral, and dishonest our military adventures in the middle east are?

          That’s the kind of politician you might be asked to vote for under this strategy. The platform would emphasize universal material benefits as the “litmus test,” as it were. It would not seek or promote warmongering policies and politicians. But it wouldn’t focus on anti-war messaging or policies as the fulcrum of the movement, the platform, or the candidate approval process. Given the coalition we’d be building, and the stark difference ideologically between the neoliberal drive to monetize everything on earth on behalf of the few via military support versus seeing a nation as a community of equal members all equally deserving of a share of the prosperity created by the community, it would functionally be an anti-war coalition whether or not that’s the explicit messaging.

          At some point, it would unquestionably need to become explicit. Actually shrinking this huge system would be a lot of work. But — just as an example — if we have created a leftist government that has actually passed universal health care, a living minimum wage (personally, I think we should already be pushing for $25/hr.), expanded Social Security benefits, a student debt jubilee, a Post Office Bank with Internet Delivery and working jobs guarantee, that government would be more likely to have the trust of the citizenry when it says, “We’ll take care of all those enlisted people, all those contractors, all those support personnel. As we dismantle our armed forces, no citizen will be left stranded.” A lot of the resistance to social programs now is precisely that the neoliberals don’t do universal. A whole lot of people are always left out or made to suffer significant limitations or time taxes along one vector or another.

          So that’s the question: would you join that coalition? It’s not a matter of you being unwelcome, censored or suppressed. Nobody is suggesting that.

  25. annenigma

    The first step is to drop out of the Democratic Party.

    When Democratic Party registrations drop precipitously as a result of voters changing to Independent or third party status, only then will the Democratic Party realize they’ve got a serious problem and make serious changes. As it stands now, why should they? We claim to hate the Democratic Party, yet stay registered as Democrats. Politicians and party leaders, of all people, know that talk is cheap and that actions speak louder than words. So are we going to gripe and grouse about the Democratic Party betraying us, or do one of the few things we have to show them how we feel?

    Not voting doesn’t send a message because they can’t translate that. It could be from any number of reasons. Not sending money is the same, especially for everyone who isn’t a regular campaign donor. But being a registered Democrat then breaking up with them? Ouch. If state election offices reported that Democratic Party registrations suddenly dropped to 10% of all registered voters, that’s a message they can’t ignore or write off.

    It’s a bad marriage and one Party is refusing to go for counseling, so separation is an appropriate next step. Hell, the Democratic Party isn’t even promising to change their ways. They must be pressured to change if they want to get us back, and with concrete actions, not just pretty words, and we must be prepared to divorce them if they don’t. Keeping them guessing about how we’ll vote is important, and that includes their pollsters. Our loyalty should be to each other collectively, not to the corrupt Democratic Party and their hacks. The only way for a viable third party or independent candidate to emerge is to make room for one, lots of room. The racket of party leadership choosing and supporting corporate candidates for us must end.

    We owe it to each other to force them to change using the only real leverage we have – our party affiliation, or lack thereof.

    DemExit – Busting up their political racket starts with us, not with any political leader.

    1. Oregoncharles

      They already dropped precipitously; granted, I’m equating “affiliation” polls with registrations, because registrations aren’t comparable from state to state.

      My point: both registrations and affiliation have fallen, but the party hasn’t changed a bit. So I’m all for your tactic, but I don’t think it’s nearly enough. Ultimately, it’s going to take actions more positive than that.

    2. Fiery Hunt

      I whole-heartedly agree!

      If the Democratic Party closes ranks and excludes independents from voting in their primaries (for example), then you’ll get nothing but Clinton vs Trump every time. And Jill Stein may be the best 3rd party vote count you’ll ever get.

      “none of the above” votes will just keep rising.

      1. jrs

        well people could register Dem and vote in the primaries to change this and it would be strategic.

        Since I’m in the open primary state of California, there is little point in registering Dem here (what to give them moral support for their lameness?), but registering with a party does apply to all the closed primary states (and open primaries frankly kind of suck for their own set of reasons).

  26. Andrew Watts

    I must say I see the whole discussion as irrelevant to our predicament. I don’t believe the imperial presidency will be controlled through electoral politics. The decisions which lead to America becoming an empire cannot be revisited. They hardly matter at any rate while our decline accelerates in the present. The rise of a multipolar world and the products of our own hubris will finish any pretension at being an uncontested superpower. The question is, do we embrace a spirit of egalitarianism that will provide a degree of social stability through our imperial decline?

  27. grizziz

    Yves and Lambert are supporting arguments which favor “universal benefits” such as single payer health care, expanded social security, postal banking, jobs guarantees and expanding public education from k-12 to something like k-16. IMO these are all worth goals.
    To be picky, I would think that universal benefits should be referred as national benefits or added as constitutional rights since politically the application of these benefits are circumscribed by those in the political system as belonging to the nation as composed by its constituents under a constitution. The universality is therefore quite un-universal. Also, “benefits” appears to me as excluding or accruing to one group or individual separated from another group.

    Similarly, using the term morals when speaking about a faction; i.e., the faction which is attempting to gain control of the democratic party, is troubling because traditionally morals are held by individuals and not groups or factions. It would be preferable to use terms such as utilitarian or consequentialist to put the effects of group action into the realm of objective knowledge as opposed to hidden individual feelings or intent.

    Finally, it is weird to argue from a theory of obliquity since it introduces such a large component of randomness into political action that one might be forgiven for even attempting to willfully change anything.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Yes, they are limited to the nation-state. While I would love to see an international workers movement, it doesn’t seem to be on offer.

      * * *

      I don’t see why obliquity introduces randomness. Ever watched snooker?

      1. grizziz

        I am assuming that the “obliquity” is based on John Kay’s book of the same title. I have not read it and understand that Yves found it “persuasively argued.” With that caveat, I will note that snooker is a somewhat complicated game, but with far fewer possible paths to winning than in finding a way to a political success.

        Tactically being oblique is fine, but strategically it is not. Following paths without a strategy is somewhat equivalent to You do not have an adequate grasp of the terrain. It may be that someone has a grasp of the political terrain, but I have my doubts.
        I find the election of Trump as the sum of many random variables forking their way to Trump being granted the presidency through a slew of arcane rules. Maybe not as bad as “the Drunkard’s Walk”, but close.

  28. marym

    Not being killed by the armed violence of the state, and not having one’s home, neighborhood, and resources destroyed by predatory shock doctrine capitalism are universal, material benefits.

    The “left” ought to have a basic framework for domestic and foreign policy reflecting that, building specific electoral demands, non-electoral protest objectives, and local alternatives within that framework.

    Universal healthcare, $15hr, and publicly funded college tuition and fees are strong and increasingly popular proposals. Add student loan and medical debt jubilee to look back as well as forward, and it’s a good start on addressing domestic, anti-predatory capitalism issues. However domestic state violence also needs to be addressed. These are survival issues in some communities – the incarceral state, mandatory minimums, prison labor, criminalization of behavior and militarized responses in schools, mass surveillance.

    A movement committed both to curtailing state violence, and to reclaiming and expanding the commons domestically then ought not to find it difficult to make the connection to many foreign policy military and economic issues, and to build alliances among individuals and organizations working on sub-sets of these issues.

    I don’t know if there’s an electoral process solution for our problems now. If there is, there needs to be a movement driving it. It’s not itself the movement. How can a movement that doesn’t explicitly address the issue of state violence possibly succeed in its other objectives?

    1. Lambert Strether

      And a Post Office bank.

      I would argue that #MedicareForAll, a $15/hour minimum wage, and a Post Office Bank would do more to empower women than a Planned Parenthood office on every block would (a fine example of obliquity).

      1. giantsquid

        Tuition-free post-secondary education/training? School lunches? Of course, a job guarantee (including paying for the care of young children, the elderly, or the disabled).

        Great post based on a great comment by Marina Bart. I don’t understand all the Bernie bashing at NC. He started the 2016 primary season with very little name recognition and almost no money, and he nearly toppled the anointed Queen (and I believe he would have if the process had been fair). Bernie’s a politician, not a saint, and he’s done an amazing job bringing his issues front and center. And his positions are both good for the country and popular enough to overcome the resistance of the DC elite.

        Along these lines, the list of economic benefits that could be successfully promoted by the left (i.e. become law) is long, popular, and potentially unifying. A governing coalition built upon this kind of program is possible, even in the relatively near future. Unfortunately, a similar coalition that sought to undo the MIC could not be built in the U.S. anytime soon. I do think that those supporting this kind of universal benefits program would generally be open to restraining military spending and adventurism. After all, Bernie Sanders voted against both Iraq wars. He was also one of only three senators who voted against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 and one of seven who voted against the 2017 bill.

        1. tegnost

          as to the bernie bashing, let’s not forget that james levy himself left due generally to his support for hillary and the push back he received here, ( I’ll assume that he voted for that war mongering lunatic by making some kind of moral justification),many of the scolding commentors are playing divide to conquer, basically the same failed strategy that led to hillary losing, never actually taking a viable stand, just dissing the other guy and not owning their amoral positions by saying everyone’s amoral. Bernie has done a great job and continues to do a great job so dem loyalists have to find a way to knock him down a few pegs. Definitely Marina struck a nerve in that camp and the defense of the post has been stellar in spite of efforts to derail it.

          1. jrs

            I don’t think James Levy ever supported Hillary over Bernie though, I think he supported Bernie in the primary, though my memory could be wrong. He supported Hillary ONLY over Trump after Bernie lost the primary I believe, and every day tends to prove him entirely right of course. Trump is an unmitigated disaster (I don’t know what kind of moral justification anyone could make at this point for Trump). Yes Hillary is also bad.

  29. Anon

    Once you feel the pain, anger, despair of losing a child, a friend, a father to war it’s with you forever. If Americans would better recognize this fact, then they would better understand “why folks hate us”.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Look, we are not disagreeing. We are saying, as you say in Maine, you can’t get there from here. Rejecting politicians because they don’t make opposition to the war a major position is counterproductive. As dc blogger pointed out above, anti war protests are thinly attended. This is not an issue that moves voters even though it should. The left needs to focus on winnable fights and this isn’t one at this juncture.

  30. jrs

    I can understand why fighting against war may be a long shot given the powers at play, but truthfully this post reads like:

    1) build a collation
    2) get universal benefits (ok that can be an end in itself and if that is all one was aiming for, so far so good)
    3) *MAGIC*
    4) wars end

    I don’t see wars ending automatically following from building a collation for economic benefits. So everyone has as much benefits as say the top 30% do now maybe (or maybe more) but those people show no great universal social moral code really. Yes the brutality of the economic system makes other things hard (yea try to protest wars if working several jobs), but financial ease alone doesn’t make those things happen.

    Meanwhile military hardware still finds it’s way into our police forces making the ability to actually push for change ever more fraught. Wars and the economic system are all wrapped up together, poverty and lack of economic opportunity leads many people to join the army, the military tanks etc. are then used against black lives matter protests etc.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > 3) *MAGIC*

      One obvious driver is when people aren’t forced to join the military as the only way to avoid deaths from despair, it’s going to be harder to keep the volunteer army going. And I think reinstating the draft is a non-starter

      A second driver is that only a political entity with credibility can have the power to end the wars. How do you build the credibility among voters? (Unless you want to temporarily bulk yourself up in the political class by dropping some bombs). Start at the lowest level of Maslow’s heirarchy. At the local level, fill potholes and clear the snow. Then you can get visionary. At the Federal level, deliver health care that doesn’t suck. Then you can talk about ending America’s imperial mission.

  31. a different chris

    >and correct our budgeting priorities to shrink the military way, way down,

    Um, we have the world’s reserve, fiat currency. You can’t starve the military by pitting it against “good things at home” unless there is a real cost instead of just numbers in a book.

    In fact, our currency may be the heart of the whole problem. People give us stuff for nothing. Ugh.

    1. Marina Bart

      Maybe I’m being overly defensive due to the intentional strawmanning elsewhere in the comments section, but snipping that phrase out of context drains it of meaning.

      We have to have control of government to shrink the military. If we can get in power offering universal material benefits to build a coalition that wrests control of the Democratic Party from corporate courtiers, we have a shot at changing what we spend money on. I’m not saying we’ll run out of money for war. I’m saying by gaining power, we can then write the budget and change what we spend our fiat on. It would still be very, very difficult to do. But isn’t it worth trying?

  32. doug

    1) reinstate the draft. M&F, starting at age 40 and working down, no exceptions.
    2)wars end….

    1. Marina Bart

      I’m planning to explain more about why I think pushing for a draft as a way to end the wars is a mistake. While I understand completely how that would seem logical after Vietnam, evidence suggests this would actually play right into the warmongering Democrats’ hands.

      In the meantime, I think realistically, with such a captured and corrupted government overseeing such dramatic inequality, there is no way any version of the draft would touch any people in power. If you push for a draft, you’ll get one that includes many gates and gatekeepers to guarantee that no 1%er or their friends or family or even their favored 10%er servants would be drafted. Those already victimized by neoliberalism would just be victimized further. I don’t think you can count on that swinging elections immediately. They’d just game the rules around who gets sent, to make sure it doesn’t impact their reliable demographics. I’m not thrilled about trying to arbitrage how many people would have to die due to the draft (both our soldiers and their victims) in a ramped up, even more aggressive military with the bodies to launch significant new land offensives, before we could get the dynamic turned around and shut the whole thing down.

  33. JIm

    Of course, there are many more options than the three listed above.

    For example, way back In 1972 it was suggested that:

    “Despite the romantic claims and “scholarly: theories of the left, it is apparent that the industrial workers cannot take over the corporations. By themselves all they can do is stop working. Its true that production workers could bring even a highly automated industry to a halt, But they couldn’t take over and administer a single sprawling corporation, let alone a sector of the economy. Production workers are not in a position to coordinate the internal daily transactions of the firm and the flow of goods, money and services to and from other firms. These tasks–the real work of corporate management–are performed by low paid and low-ranking clerical workers (more than two-thirds who are women). The clerical workers are the crucial sector of the work force. At present they are in fact running the corporations, but on salaries that just beat welfare, without credit or social recognition and without the power to rearrange to conditions of their offices (in the interests of convenience, efficiency, pleasure and all the other factors that distinguish work from slavery. A revolution in this country will involve the clerical workers doing roughly the same work they do now (for the owners and executives who keep them down) on behalf of working people in other positions. It will mean money, recognition and power to run things differently.”

    Maybe we should focus, in 2017, on formulating similar suggestions for up-to-date creative strategies for new ways of running our country and our companies–stepping away from the ultimately status-quo thinking that, in essence, calls for supposedly better administration of State Capitalism through a “reformed” Democratic party controlled by specialized MMT Big-State bureaucrats(running on a platform of providing universal benefits to the working class) while meanwhile consolidating their own personal positions of power in the State and then ending up being reluctantly forced to work in coordination with the modern National Security Surveillance agenda–in order to maintain their new privileges as well as stay alive. Bernie and Elizabeth are perfect front candidates for such a strategy.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > In formulating similar suggestions for up-to-date creative strategies for new ways of running our country and our companies

      See Naked Capitalism here, here, here, here, and even here.

      Incidentally, MMT is already how we manage our fiat currency. Unfortunately, the mechanism isn’t visible, in fact is deliberately obfuscated by both parties (and a good deal of academia).

      1. Oregoncharles

        ” MMT is already how we manage our fiat currency.” But not how we manage our fiscal policy. Seems to me, it is a realistic observation of how a fiat currency actually works, followed by the real point: policy suggestions, especially that deficit spending is often advisable for good works. It’s that last bit that’s the sticking point, and the reason the PTB cover up the reality.

        To Be Fair: it’s also because they fear the system will be unstable if they admit to it. Will people pay taxes just to prevent inflation and support the value of the currency? I doubt it, myself.

  34. Oregoncharles

    Usually, if you’re ” inside the belly of the beast,” you get digested. And that’s what at least 30 years of recent history also say.

    I wish you luck.

    The “major” parties are dying – both of them. And about time. We can have no idea how that will turn out, but I think if you’re seriously on the left, you’ll wind up in the Green Party, for all its present weaknesses, if only because we’re here.

    But be forewarned: we regularly run on single issues, if they’re core principles, which peace certainly is. There are reasons for that that don’t apply if you’re still trying to work the system; for one thing, our job is to be the radicals, to stand for an ideology. That’s precisely why we’re still standing.

    These strategic considerations look very different from the outside.

  35. ChrisAtRU

    I agree with the gist of Yves’ writing (and Marina’s comment) here, but less with the lede as it were. IMO, it’s not so much that an anti-war stance is not a good strategy, but rather that painting all and sundry with a pro-war brush misses the point – fundamentally overturning the current kleptocracy and giving more direct and better power to the majority of people. To wit:
    Bernie Sanders, The Company Man (Counterpunch)
    That we have a journalist who is willing to call Bernie out on echoing #MSM #Russia tropes is a good thing. But does Bernie deserve to be called “pro-war” or discredited as “not anti-war enough”? No IMO. If you have read or listened to his words regarding the middle east in the Dem Primary, you would feel differently. But yes, many of us who like Bernie have cringed a bit to hear him ask why Trump praises Putin too much or say that Assad has to go. OK, Bernie isn’t “the wokest of them all” on these issues, but I’m still hitching my wagon to Bernie as opposed to those who are actually more bloodthirsty or stand to gain more from their MIC minders in the event of war.

    So, even though I know Yves chooses her words carefully, in my mind’s eye, I see a different title on offer here:

    “Applying The Pro-war Brush Too Liberally (pun intended!) Obscures The Final Picture”

    Probably not pithy enough for Yves’ tastes, but metaphorical enough for mine! Further to the thought experiment, may I offer two media devices:
    1. Can’t Get There From Here – The 1st R.E.M. song I ever heard! When the world is a monster, we save ourselves by kicking the dirt that holds the teeth in. And in my mind, that is what the wider effort to delegitimize, discredit and discard the current media and political (especially Dem) establishment is all about – rendering them toothless.

    2. Finger Pointing At The Moon – Bruce Lee’s short, witty articulation of focusing on the end goal! Slap! Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!

    ;-) Thanks for all the spirited discourse … comme d’habitude.

  36. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    When you change politicians, and elect ones who care, both can happen at the same time.

    The danger with benefits first is

    1 you get your benefits
    2 the same politicians (enough of them) remain
    3 No military spending will come…in fact, more. (“Hey, I see you are doing well. Join the army to protect your family from many bad guys and girls out there.”).

    1. Marina Bart

      We’re only getting the benefits if we throw out the current pols. They have made it very, very clear they will oppose this. That’s part of why this might work at this point in time.

      To me, the weakness isn’t there. It’s keeping the coalition together to keep the new pols we elect in line. The majority of the country wants less war, but the MIC could try for a redo of midcentury America, where they turn the spigot back on for citizens in return for compliance. BUT that worked in part because World War II was a “good” war that we won. That propaganda won’t work for the foreseeable future, not to the same degree, and more importantly, not in the communities that have traditionally supplied ground personnel.

      Yes, there are dangers. Nothing that could possibly work would be danger-free.

  37. Lambert Strether

    It also strikes me as odd that a rigorous moral analysis doesn’t take into account deaths from class warfare, which Case-Deaton’s deaths from despair surely are, as are deaths that #MedicareForAll would prevent.

    Why don’t those bodies count?

  38. Everlasting Triumph for the Songun Republic!

    What we have here is an Atkins-style Dem Party Juche session.

    Marina is exhibit A for this:


    The tells include an argument from pragmatism based on unspecified boasts of hobnobbing with touchy big shots. It boils down to the loony assertion that you should shut up about blowing shit up, just let them do it cause otherwise they’ll get extra mad. Instead, you just ask the kleptocracy for other stuff they won’t let you have either. Oh and of course the magic word Purity, beloved pejorative of Dem party apparatchiks.

    This comes out foolish because Marina is fixated on electoral ritual. She gives you three (3) options, when there’s an obvious Number 4 sitting there big as a walrus. Die Wende. Remember the climactic election that brought it about? That’s right, you don’t. There wasn’t one. Remember the Great Raging Sanguinary Civil War of Central Europe? Nope. There wasn’t one. (There was a little Russian civil war that took a few thousand lives, but that was all CIA fun & games.)

    Wikileaks has exhaustively documented the terminal degeneration of US electoral ritual. The pellets don’t come out when the pigeons peck the lever any more. But Marina’s extinction burst is not over so she wants you to peck harder. Or put a little english on it.

    Stop pecking the frickin lever and go for B.F. Skinner’s eyes.

    When the government has lost its legitimacy you go over the government’s head to a more legitimate authority. One with more highly developed institutions and ideology. That is, treaty bodies, charter bodies, and special procedures that are built to incorporate your civil society organizations and to coordinate them with international public pressure. The legitimate authority says peace is the law. It says economic rights are the law. You don’t prioritize this one or that one, you get them all.

    Ajamu Baraka set it all up for you. You can just get up on his surfboard and surf the collapse of US kleptocracy.

    [removed link whoring to other sites]

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I see.

      You present yourself as the better realist and then you trot out the magic sparkle pony of “more legitimate authority”.

      Where exactly have you been for the last 50 years? The US has run hundreds of undeclared wars in addition to the ones that actually get noticed on the front pages of the Western press for more than a day or so, even overthrown the governments of close allies (see Gough Whitlam in Australia). And you tell us that there is some Godlike noble authority that will save us from the US war machine if we all get behind it? Pray tell where is it? I don’t see the UN stopping the US intervening illegally in Syria, or the Hague declaring Henry Kissinger and tons of other deserving candidates to be war criminals.

      And the “higher” as in transnational authorities being empowered now are secret trade tribunals that serve the interest of multinationals against those of citizens by gutting environmental and labor laws and strengthening intellectual property protection so that overpriced drugs can be more readily imposed on the rest of the world. Those multinational companies need the US war machine to keep the oceans safe for trade to preserve their extended supply chains. So the effort to shift more power to transnational bodies is aligned with giving the war machine more, not less, power.

      But you didn’t bother thinking this through very far.

      And you have a high invective to signal ratio and engage in ad hominem and straw manning, which are tells that your argument is weak.

      BTW we do have rules here and you made it clear you don’t like that and proceeded to make a point of violating them in multiple ways. You should stick to sites that are less rigorous about evidence and argumentation than we are, which is what are rules are designed to promote.

      1. Lambert Strether

        A classic case of Lambert’s Law of Commentary, which is that those who most vociferously pride themselves on their strategic acumen invariably end up insulting the moderator, thereby disqualifying themselves as strategists.

  39. Kalen

    Another great topic to discuss. For myself however, one can name oneself whatever one wants but cannot be called a socialist if one does not repudiate war in all shapes or forms.

    Socialist must understand that war destroys society, instigate divisions and artificial hatred among common human race for benefit of rulers only. War betrays everything that is good within society, anything that people’s ingenuity, bare hands, sweat, blood and tears in selfless corporation created and built for good of others.

    It is not important what or how war starts. The war itself is always fueled by emotional revenge, a rage of betrayal and regret of believing of absurd war propaganda like “saving little beautiful babies by killing even more beautiful babies” when facing personally fear of death, physical extermination realizing that it is all utterly futile, for nothing at all.

    Those who understand war, any war know that it is an absurd.

    Those who understand war, any war know that war destroys any chance of revolutionary changes or any changes for benefit of majority of working people at all but sometimes temporary elevation of slave status and periods of diminished torture by ruling elites, while make the oligarchy filthy rich and more powerful, and that’s why they want war.

    Being vehemently anti-war should be a red-line for all leftists and progressive not only for moral or ideological reasons since from history we know that many who called themselves so-called leftists were biggest warmongers, but because it is also a rational stance, the only stance that could possibly enable transformation of American society from capitalist consciousnesses of exclusion, alienation, viscous competition, war and rampant individualism under the guise of phony liberal ideas of abstract individual freedom money can buy into society of inclusion, sharing and caring of any fellow human being.

    It is more or less position of R.Luxemburg who was condemned for it and died abandoned by her fellow comrades and labeled a traitor by her compatriots.

    This is the price that many righteous leftists like Malcolm X had finally become had to pay sometimes even from hands of their comrades in the struggle.

    1. Kalen

      Sorry, I meant: “selfless cooperation created and built for good of others”
      This evil auto-correct acts up again.

      1. JTMcPhee

        It’s too bad that “corporation” has become what it has, linguistically. Maybe that was inevitable, given humanity writ large. But “corporation” in the poet’s sense used to have a positive meaning — a healthy gathering together. Words change meaning and values, as I understand the term, go to pot. “Sophisticated” used to mean “debased, spoiled, adulterated, inauthentic,” stuff like that. Now? It’s become a compliment — “I envy her, him, he/she is so sophisticated and urbane…”

  40. Sluggeaux

    I suspect that Martina Bart says that “the South won” because Nixon’s Southern Strategy made the Dixiecrats into either Republicans or Clintonites. However, the Military-Industrial Complex isn’t made-up of the antebellum plantation class — I agree with Jim Haygood that the Military-Industrial Complex is descended from pious New England Yankee Puritan entitlement — it just happens to have created an electoral base in the former Confederacy, like those Yankee war-profiteers, the Bush clan, and those Yalie carpet-baggers, the Clintons.

    I think that those who want a “local” political model are foolish — the Washington-Wall Street axis has too much financial and economic power over our lives for that to work. We are being crushed by them. As a “local” career civil servant, my Federal effective tax rate was 22.4% in 2014 — in 2016 it was 28.2%. My CalPERS pension is being looted by negative interest rates set by the Fed and by market regulations that are left un-enforced due to decisions made in favor of the Washington-Wall Street axis. They are bleeding us dry, and wars designed to murder far-away brown people are the “patriotic” excuse.

    Federal, State, and Local campaign laws favor the so-called “two-party system” and it is quite impossible for a third-party solution at the ballot box. At this moment the Democrat party is completely out of power in any branch of government and in most states, so there is indeed no reason for the Military-Industrial Complex to direct graft the way of the Democrat establishment. This creates an opportunity to push the agents of the Washington-Wall Street axis out of the party.

    While this is a coup against the Military-Industrial Complex, I agree with Martina Bart that pushing an agenda of Universal Benefits, such as Medicare-for-all, tuition-free colleges and universities, and repudiation of “free trade” in favor of domestic employment with collective bargaining rights, is the way to energize the nearly 45 percent of eligible voters who stayed away from the polls in the November 2016 Presidential General Election.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Not meant as a theoretical offering, but the bases are primarily Southern; my impression is that the troops are as well, or at least “not New England.” All interesting in case of a future Federal breakup….

      However, as a WASP I need to take responsbility for the intelligence community, James Jesus Angleton.

  41. Fastball

    I am reminded by this article that whoever poses as the left tries to marginalize the still further left.

    America as a project does not deserve to exist while it wages endless war against the rest of the world. While I am sure people at naked capitalism think that being anti-war is “purity” others see it as a first cause.

    By the way, this is the same dumb “purity” argument that is used to argue against people like Sanders as well. Strange, the gleeful nonchalance with which it is trotted out against the anti-war left. Or perhaps not.

    I for one will not vote for or in any way support anyone who advocates for still more war or votes for more war and death. For one thing, because it will lead inevitably to WWIII, and all our deaths — to give the purely selfish motivation that is no doubt expected from people who want free college for themselves, and don’t care about the deaths of hundreds of thousands to millions of people overseas in order to get it.

    If that’s “purity” so be it, but you still don’t get my vote.

    1. Allegorio

      I don’t believe that it is argued here that one should support a candidate that supports the war party, but to not condemn those who do not emphasize their opposition, giving the war mongers an excuse to pillory them or make them seem unpatriotic. I believe those who support a truly progressive platform can be counted on to oppose war, even though they do not advertise it for strategic reasons. It is no coincidence that the war mongers consistently oppose social insurance, that is what war is all about.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, that is correct. This started with a reader saying “I won’t back a candidate who is not firmly anti-war”. We are saying that using that screen to reject otherwise sound candidates is a bad idea.

        1. Fastball

          If they are not anti-war, as a political candidate, they are by definition not a sound candidate.

          In a nutshell, this is an argument against anti-war pressure, or denying the vote. It is someone saying “I can deny you the vote based on x,y, or z, but you cannot.” I can and I will.

          1. Marina Bart

            No, that is not what we’re proposing.

            What we’re saying is that focusing our energy around universal concrete benefits and demanding candidates support that is what will build the kind of coalition that has a shot at also shrinking the MIC.

            Personally, I am NOT arguing that we should, for example, back someone who is an active neocon but also backs universal health care. Not only would that be personally offensive to me, as well, but I think it would be an ineffective compromise. It’s unlikely we’ll see anyone try to thread that particular needle, but just for the record: no.

            I’m proposing we prioritize universal benefits, and the candidates who commit to delivering them. That’s a huge paradigm shift all by itself. That paradigm is a nurturing rather than exploitative paradigm, and in practical, economic and cultural ways would by itself move us away from so much warfare — not enough all by itself, but it would have an impact. While Bernie, to give the most obvious example of this tension, is neither as focused on nor as forceful in his criticism of our warmongering that I would like, he’s a world away from the D.C. consensus on this. He visibly recoiled in that debate when Hillary boasted of how much Kissinger praises her and approves of her.

            That’s an example. Would you vote for someone who clearly wants less war, but isn’t directly and aggressively challenging DC warmongering orthodoxy, if they ran on a platform of universal health care, Post Office Bank and Internet Delivery, Jobs Guarantee, Expanded Social Security benefits and Free Public College/Student Debt Jubilee?

  42. Cujo359

    I don’t agree with REDPILLED’s opinion as expressed in that quote, but I suspect that if foreign policy and defense were the issue I was most concerned with, I would not find the counter-argument in this article persuasive.

    To start with, I don’t come at this from a political operative’s point of view, but from a citizen’s. I want my country to be a better place, and specifically, I want it to be a better place by giving all of us access to medical care and the opportunity to find a job or make a decent living (in short, a full employment policy of some sort). Any politician who doesn’t support those policies won’t get my vote or support, no matter what his position on other matters, because to me without those principles in mind any politician is going to take us in the wrong direction as a country. Right now, most major party politicians don’t have either my vote or support.

    That may seem unreasonable, but it’s the only attitude from citizens that I’ve seen have any effect on public policy these days. Neither major party gives a crap about the issue-oriented groups who “work with” them or put their own agendas on hold for the supposed greater good. The issue groups who get what they want are the ones who won’t compromise – the ones who make politicians pay for not doing what the groups want. Whether it’s the NRA making sure there are no more gun regulations by scaring enough politicians, or LGBTs getting what they want by telling their politicians “the GayTM is closed” until they get what they want, making politicians understand that their own self-interest is best served by doing what we think they should is the surest way to make sure it happens.

    So, I’m going to continue being unreasonable, at least until I see a more viable option. I suspect the people you’re trying to persuade aren’t going to change their minds, either.

    1. Fastball

      “I suspect the people you’re trying to persuade aren’t going to change their minds, either.”

      Certainly, they will not. Especially since when I vote for a politician and he engages in war like behavior, some of that blood is on MY hands.

      1. JTMcPhee

        And how many Red-Blooded Americans believe that, at all, at all? I don’t hear too many people wandering around my little neighborhood muttering “Out, damned spot…”

        1. Cujo359

          Why would they? When it comes to who we vote for, how much of that process is in the hands of average citizens? “Almost none” is the right answer. We choose from among a few choices that have been proffered to us who each claim to represent this or that on a bunch of different issues, and some of them might be lying through their teeth about what they believe in. Vote for one of those choices, or don’t vote at all, and you’re going to see unintended consequences, and if you’re not a complete fool you’ll always wonder about the opportunity cost about not having done something else. Is it better to vote for someone like Sanders, who might not stand up to the defense/foreign policy establishment but will try to make the US a more civilized place, or vote for a libertarian who might, in essence, do the exact opposite?

          It’s all very well to say we’re responsible for the choices we make, but any choice voters make is so far removed from the actions that result from those choices that assigning blame for them seems like an intellectual exercise at best, and a rationalization for one’s own choices at worst.

          1. Marina Bart

            I’m trying to understand your two comments here. Because it sounds like you agree with me. In your first comment, the benchmark you give for what policies would required to get your vote and precisely the kinds of policies I’m advocating for, to both help people most broadly and urgently, and lead to the left gaining power.

            So what is it about my argument you find unpersuasive?

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        This is straw-manning the post. The argument is “Don’t nix progressives who you regard as soft on the war issue.” You don;t acknowledge that many pols don’t stake out a strong position here. There is a world of difference between not voting for a hawk and not voting for someone because they are not vocally anti war.

        This is literally a logical fallacy. Being pro war is A. Not being pro war is not the same as being anti war. It is merely not being pro war. The universe is A (pro war) and “not A” (not pro war). You want to be all black and white and say the only choices are being pro or anti war. That just isn’t so no matter how much you want to make it like that.

        People, particularly pols, may not like war but think it is not a winnable fight right now. And given how many goodies the military industrial and surveillance states have to hand out to candidates, someone who is not pro war is choosing to leave a lot of potential campaign $ on the table. The fact that they aren’t seeking all the goodies that go with pandering to the military machine isn’t good enough for you??

        Consider this from a 2012 post:

        And even in situations like the Holocaust, it is not as easy to draw bright lines as one might think. One particularly good discussion came in 2001, in an article by Omer Bartov in a review of a book describing how Bulgaria came to be the one Nazi state that refused to turn its Jews over to Germany for extermination:

        But the lesson is not quite so simple or so edifying. For we also learn from such instances that the difference between virtue and vice is far less radical than we would like to believe. Sometimes the most effective kind of goodness – I mean the practical kind, the kind that can actually save lives and not merely alleviate the consciences of the protagonists – is carried out by those who have already compromised themselves with evil, those who are members of the very organizations that set the ball rolling towards the abyss. Hence a strange and frustrating contraction: that absolute goodness is often absolutely ineffective, while compromised, splintered, and ambiguous goodness, one that is touched and stained by evil, is the only kind that may set limits to mass murder. And while absolute evil is indeed defined by its consistent one-dimensionality, this more mundane sort of wickedness, the most prevalent sort, contains within it also seeds of goodness that may be stimulated and encouraged by the example of the few dwellers of these nether regions who have come to recognize their own moral potential. As the great cosmological myth of the Kabbalah has it, the shreds of light that remain from the original divine universe may be collected only from the spheres of evil in which they now reside.

  43. Allegorio

    This is forgetting that it is not only winning elections that the Democratic establishment are tasked with by their donors. The object is to prevent any truly progressive candidates from the ballot, hence the super delegates and poll rigging in the Democratic primaries. The Establishment Democrats will be funded for that purpose alone, even if they do not win elections. The Republicans do the bidding of the donor class even better than the Democrats, though with more blowback.

    I personally believe that the Democrats threw the election to Donald Trump just as they did to G.W. Bush in Y2K. When there is dirty work afoot, more war in west Asia, deregulation, tax “reform”, genocide by other means, gutting civil liberties the Republicans are much better at it and less apologetic. (Though I must say Barack Obama did a damn good job. They are going to miss him very much.)

    The donor class realized through the tremendous support Senator Sanders received, that the Democratic party was way too progressive and that this would compromise Hillary Clinton’s ability to deliver results, hence all the free publicity that Trump got, at first because he was thought to be easy to beat, but finally because even if elected it would have been difficult for Hillary to deliver. Hillary Clinton’s lackluster campaign was no accident, likewise Comey’s last minute announcements. This explains the bitterness the establishment Democrats feel towards Senator Sanders in that he revealed how progressive the Democratic rank and file have become.

    Even now, the establishment Democrats, at first thinking they could co-opt Senator Sander’s supporters, agreed to “unity” campaigns, but realizing how unpopular Perez and the nomenklatura are, have started attacking Senator Sanders. The knives are drawn. If they cannot co-opt him he must go. This again is a testament to his integrity and his strategic genius. All those who denounce him for staying in the Democratic fold do not understand this.

    I do agree it is essential to purge the party of neo-liberal war mongers, but it will be a long and difficult battle, because winning elections is only the secondary function of the establishment Democrats, the first objective is to sabotage the Progressives, and they will continue to be well funded to do so even if they don’t win elections, all the better for the .001%.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Dear Lord. The Democrats did not throw either election.

      The Democrats lost in Florida in 2000 because Jeb Bush hired the most expensive bidder on the contract to scrub the voter roles of felons. Said firm scrubbed every obviously black name that resembled a felon’s name. The result of the scrubbing of those names (minimum 90,000, maybe as many as 180,000) resulted in a minimum loss of 27,000 Dem votes when you multiply that 90,000 by the black turnout and the propensity of blacks to vote Democrat.

      In 2016, the Democrats were so unprepared for a loss that:

      1. Obama had to tell Hillary to concede

      2. Hillary had no concession speech prepared.

      3. Hillary had to be told by Obama to make a concession speech, which she embarrassingly did the next day.

  44. VietnamVet

    The Soviet Union fell relatively peacefully because the party elite privatized the state industries they oversaw and became billionaires. That’s already the case for the American Empire. No way can the USA be turned into a caring society and the neo-liberal-cons dispatched incrementally. The collapse will come when the little people can’t take it any longer or the grossly incompetent western leadership stumbles into World War III. An American strike on North Korea’s nuclear testing site and a counter fire barrage of long range artillery into Seoul with 25 million inhabitants is a good starting point for ending it all.

  45. Crosley Bendix

    This is a wonderful example of ahistorical and pusillanimous liberal respectability politics. If it wasn’t for “outsiders”, communists, in the CIO organizing workers the ruling class would of had no reason to try to buy off workers with reforms. And Martin Luther King Jr. was widely reviled, spied upon, and blackmailed by Kennedy’s FBI. His respectability came later as his radical message was diluted and ignored.

    The tools and techniques of America’s terror overseas will inevitably be brought home and be used to attempt to stop people from fighting for justice here. Even minor reforms in the US would of never been won without “outsiders” who were willing to go for the throat.

    1. Marina Bart

      This is a wonderful example of ahistorical and pusillanimous liberal respectability politics.

      What is? Certainly not my argument. So what are you responding to?

      1. Crosley Bendix

        I am saying that you are urging others to curry favor with elites to get reforms. This has never worked and will never work.

        1. Marina Bart

          I didn’t say that at all anywhere. Did you actually read my piece? Please quote the sentence that illustrates your point.

          I said we need to build a broad coalition based on universal material benefits to create solidarity among the lower 90%, to purge the corporate Democrats from power, in order to stop the war machine. How is that currying favor with elites?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No, you are wrong re King.

      He was very highly respected after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

      He realized and spoke about how that success did nothing to prevent black men from going to Vietnam disproportionately and being killed.

      He came out early against the war and was reviled for that.

      It was his assassination that led to him being celebrated again. I am old enough to remember the trajectory in real time.

  46. Marina Bart

    I am not fully caught up on all the discussions here. I was able to read a fair bit this morning, but this is the first opportunity I have had to reply. I’ve been stewing for HOURS, so I am going to write a few things now, and then later hopefully reply more directly and/or more substantively.

    First, I understand that the onus is on me to build a persuasive argument that is not merely logically and probatively sound but accessible. I will seek to improve in that regard.

    But second, there’s a whole lotta strawmanning by some people in the comments section that looks intentional, especially since some of it is larded with deeply offensive personal slurs on my morality that are easily and readily disproved by what I wrote here.

    My point was that this is a path that can lead to ending the war machine. That was my starting premise. I was not arguing that war is fine. I was not arguing that backing warmongers is fine. I was not arguing that black and brown people who live outside the United States are less deserving of life. I was not arguing that establishment Democrats and their repulsive morals and deathbringing is fine. In fact, I was arguing the exact opposite of those positions, and I really don’t think I did such a bad job that anyone reading my argument in good faith could come away thinking those things. So why are so many of you pretending that I did?

    I invite those of you who felt that the appropriate critique of my suggested strategy to overthrow our fascist oligarchy was to slur me personally to offer your own strategy. But it needs to be one that could be executed here, on whatever version of Earth this is. It’s can’t be any flavor of sanctimoniously asserting that more and better yelling or shaming will do it. If you want to sit around and feel virtuous and hopeless rather than try to take power away from warmongers, please feel free. You can be my ally, even. I’ll explain how in a minute. But insulting me when I’m proposing a viable path to achieving the goal you claim you want is not a good look, as the kids say.

    I am not claiming this strategy is guaranteed to work. I recognize that the forces arrayed against us are mighty and powerful. That’s why this dynamic has persisted for decades. If it was easy, we wouldn’t be at war in 7+ countries — all of them basically undeclared and extra-legal.

    In fact, if you came here and instead of offering productive additions, corrections or alternatives to this strategy, you just called me names, you are working for the warmongers, whether you realize this or not. If you aren’t willing to try to work with people who don’t look, think and live exactly like you, then you’re not serious about ending the war machine. You’re just a sanctimonious phony, like the liberal faux feminists who claim they care about abortion rights while they promote a party and its candidates who refuse to ever do anything to protect non-elite women’s reproductive rights in the real world.

    The military industrial complex has made sure that every single Congressional district in the country gets a taste of that military spending. And huge regions of the country have no functional economy now. People are dying all over America from despair, from hunger, from police oppression, from poverty, from lack of health care. Some of you seem to think those lives don’t matter at all. If that’s what you think, then FAMILY BLOG you. Liberals love to found charities to supposedly help the poor in other countries. The poor here, they’re happy to condescend to, exploit and crap on. That’s classically liberalism, and I reject it.

    I care about Palestinians and Syrians and Yeminis and Brazilians and ALSO Americans. I’m 57 years old. I was pushed by my mother in a stroller in a march against the Vietnam War. I was kicked out of Brownies for wearing a Eugene McCarthy button. I’ve been protesting wars basically since I was born. I helped Obama get elected in part because I thought he would at least dial the warmongering back compared to Clinton or McCain. But that didn’t happen did it? We need a different approach, if we’re serious. I proposed one. To respond by calling me immoral is…Clintonian.

    And about the draft: the Democrats had a “drafting women” bill ready to go. That was going to pass before Hillary’s inauguration. They wanted it. Do you really think they were pushing it to stop the warmaking? The reality is that the military is already constrained because they can’t get enough volunteer soldiers to expand the military theaters. That was one of the reasons Obama focused on special forces operations and drones. The ruling class has colonized and exploited the citizenry to such a degree that the people poor enough and desperate enough to sign up are often in too poor health — physically and/or mentally — and too poorly educated to be good soldiers.

    Drafting women would have been the can opener to relaunch the active draft, with all that Go Girl PR under President Hillary as sugar to get the population to swallow it. So yes, I was concerned that she’d draft my daughter. But I also believe, based on EVIDENCE, that she would have also drafted many sons, and all those sons and daughters would have been sent to perish on the Russian Front. No, I’m not fine with war because I’m a woman. Seriously, how dare you, those of you who claimed that. Again, FAMILY BLOG you for impugning my morals when i took the time to write an incredibly long piece on my own time, for no glory or remuneration, to propose a way to end the war machine. That you chose to malign me and my gender rather than focus your responses on the strategic issues says something about you, and it’s neither moral nor peaceful.

    There are two halves to the pincer strategy I propose generally. One is to focus (NOT EXCLUSIVELY) on universal material benefits. It’s not to ignore other issues. It is to focus on the benefits, so that, for example, refusing to back universal health care is the deal-breaker, not the many social wedge issues that both sides of the War Party use as distractions. The point is that this is the best way to break the war party duopoly, by building a broad, durable coalition.

    The other side of that is to destroy or at least weaken the control the corporatists have over the machinery of the Democratic Party. Whether the party is taken over by the left or someone figures out a way to launch a viable national third party, weakening and disrupting the corporatists is necessary. That means that everyone who wants to end the war machine has to vote against the corporate Democrats, everywhere, in every election, at every stage.

    Yes, that means in a few cases even crazier Republicans will win. But it doesn’t matter. The Republicans have national governing hegemony, both at the federal and state levels. The New Democrats are unliked. They are not getting back into power. If they did, of course, we’d have Obama/Pelosi/Reid all over again, where they refuse to do any of the things their voters need and want. Voting for corporate Democrats and getting them a handful more seats won’t change anything. It will just allow them to keep getting corporate donations and living large personally.

    So I’m not telling you you have to vote for a Democrat, or that you have to back Bernie. Vote Third Party! Please. As long as you do not vote for a corporate Democratic, even in the general election, we are allies. That is the best thing about this strategy. It encompasses a way for the very fractured and weak left to achieve change without everybody agreeing on a single pathway or practice. You can work to take over your local Democratic Party, or work for the Greens or Working Families, or launch a new party — as long as you do not donate to, volunteer for or vote for any corporate Democrat, you are helping.

    I came to Naked Capitalism because I wanted to better understand how I ended up doing get out the vote calls for a guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize and then drenched his legacy in blood and exploitation. I am not interested in feeling virtuous. I want change. Real change. I do not want my daughter to spend her life trapped inside the Imperium. I do not want that for you, or your son. I’ll talk to anyone and everybody who is serious about creating a more peaceful and egalitarian world. Do you really think it’s an insult to suggest that I am trying to be too practical about achieving this?War is practical. Its effects are concrete and material. Dreaming and hoping and praying by themselves will accomplish nothing. Wars are fought in bloodsoaked mud. Bodies and minds are broken by the millions. If the worst thing you have to do to end that is to give your fellow citizens food, shelter and health care to join you in ending the war machine, isn’t that a reasonable trade?

    1. jrs

      I read it several times trying to understand the full of the argument, but all of it is such a stretch from anything we have now that it’s hard to even imagine how it would play out. Yes if we started a new party for a hypothetical and it was both anti-war and pro social justice and it focused on the social justice issues to get elected and down played talk of the wars, that *might* be a good strategy to get elected. But again who would this even be in other than the hypothetical (the Greens?). Are there many progressive Dems who are secretly anti-war and pro social justice and just silent on the anti-war part?

      Alternately if we imagine the existing system, but congress being all Bernie Sanders clones as a hypothetical, it would change domestic policy, but I’m not sure it would end the wars as I’m not sure electing people who AREN’T opposed to the wars (and really Bernie doesn’t seem to be) will EVER lead to the wars ending.

      I’m not sure I’m convinced Republicans have such a lock on power that it’s just them for a long time to come either. They have an advantage yes because of gerrymandering, I’m maybe just not convinced it’s an absolute advantage that events couldn’t change, but I suppose I could be convinced. And of course losing yet more STATE GOVERNMENTS to the Republicans would indeed be very bad news in my view.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Just a note: the Republicans have the advantage because the Democrats did such a lousy job when they were put in charge – given complete control. The gerrymandering helps them and so does the geographic distribution of voters, but they were able to gerrymander specifically because the voters rejected the Dems in 2010, a census year.

        The reality: the voters rejected the Dems; they split the difference in the election last year, when nobody wanted either lousy candidate. Did the alternatives benefit? Only a little. The Green Party did inherit a number of Bernie’s more enthusiastic organizers. In Oregon, we just put a whole new generation in charge of the party – I’m still stoked about it.

      2. Patricia

        I am very glad you are writing here, Marina. I don’t know if your plan will work–haven’t thought it through very well, yet, and I am not a political thought person by gift/nature. But that is maybe the point; too many of us are not political by gift/nature. And we need a lot more of that on our side.

        The decades of weaseling done upon us causes people like me to want to reject all maneuvering. Being direct/complete comes more easily in response to the long-winding betrayals, lies\half-truths that permeate everything. We, properly, have absolutely no trust. But I do know that this rigid approach is not a correct way to proceed.

        Yes, we need to constantly tend and maintain internal clarity and directness. That is our broad base for living, inviolable. But out of it, we need to learn to work loose associations/coalitions. And we need a plan for working within a corrupt environment.

        Our environment is nearly totally corrupt and the corruption is globally powerful and entrenched. If we are to make any headway against it, we, the small and put-upon, must learn to be canny, clever, and quick on our feet. (This is a truism in every faery-tale we’ve read as kids, ya know?) We need to have several plans, I think, in a descending order, alterable (as needed), and also have a handful of approaches to those plans working at any given time.

        We are not good at this stuff, as a bunch, but it is paramount, if we are to get anywhere.

        To put it another way, ‘purity’ is about how clearly we stay steadfast inside and with each other. Our work is, how will we compromise temporarily and practically, for the forward path.

        PS: This is supposed to be under Marina’s comment. Sorry

        1. Marina Bart

          I found it, Patricia. And I fundamentally agree with you.

          I often think about those little creatures who were able to survive when the dinosaurs fell. (I’m guessing Crittermom’s Roadrunner is a direct descendant. He looked like he could outwit the most well-armed coyote.)

      3. Marina Bart

        I read it several times trying to understand the full of the argument, but all of it is such a stretch from anything we have now that it’s hard to even imagine how it would play out.

        This was one of the most illuminating comments here for me. I think it gets at a big reason why there were so many misrepresentations in the reactions to what I wrote. I didn’t think what I am proposing was a big paradigm shift. I’m drawing heavily on facts and policy preferences often discussed here, to the point that I thought of it as common knowledge. But I think taking it to the next level and mapping out how to act on this knowledge as political strategy bumped up against a lot of fears and beliefs based on the past, as well as the deflating disappointment of talking about concrete possibilities vs. Utopian ideals.

        It’s on me to at least to try to lay in more track (context and connections) so people can better understand what the strategy really is before they reject it. I’m not proposing a new party necessarily, and I’m not proposing an entire congress of Bernies, which would be impossible. He’s sui generis, clearly. I’m actually proposing something simpler. But I think that’s part of what makes it harder to understand. It’s fighting existing orthodoxy and mindset in a couple of different ways. I hope you’ll read my next effort in this area; I’d like to hear your thoughts.

        And I agree with you about the state government control problem, as the Republicans inch closer to being able to call an ALEC-controlled constitutional convention. The problem is that holding your nose personally to vote for a wretched neoliberal Democrat (the only kind the current leadership will support) is very unlikely to result in the Democrats holding a state. What it would at best do would be to flip a few seats (but not enough for a majority), or keep the losses close enough that the corporatists would be able to keep going. Their donors and operatives and captured base would stagger on, playing the Washington Generals and clogging up the machinery of the Democratic Party so that it can’t be used by the left to actually win. It would just slow down the launch date of the ALEC-controlled convention; it wouldn’t stop it. That’s why even with the state party control problem, it would be better to simply and cleanly vote against all neoliberal Democrats who won’t back universal benefits. It’s long past time for the left and the right to rumble. The neoliberals, who have been forcefully repudiated nationally, need to get out of the way. Since the Iron Law of Oligarchy in action is incentivizing them not to, we need to help them on their way, for the nation’s good.

    2. Oregoncharles

      That does clarify your thought, Marina. I think any disagreements from me are purely tactical.

    3. Donald

      On people misreading you– that’s one reason why people hate politics. Probably not the only one, but it is up there. I used to be astonished when I would write a long comment elsewhere trying to be as clear as I could, anticipating objections, and yet people would invariably choose to attribute positions to me that flatly contradicted what I had written.

      Of course that’s universal. Strawmanning is maybe the most popular of all political tactics.

      On the substance of what you wrote, I think you might be right. For the most part, for various reasons, most Americans just don’t get that upset by our wars as long as Americans aren’t being killed, though they can be worked up to feel outrage if a convenient villain overseas ( Ike Assad) or at home ( Bush or Trump) can be blamed. There is no moral consistency in the reactions. I don’t blame most people — if I lost my job or had some other serious hardship to face my priorities would shift. So our tactics should reflect reality.

      1. Marina Bart

        I appreciate your perspective on this, Donald, as well as your other comment.

        It’s an interesting issue. Is there any way to reach and persuade people politically to leave an ideological bubble, or is the necessary first step always and inevitably private, a rejection of the ideology as a result of one’s lived experience? In other words, must a change in political identification always start with personal agency, exiting the bubble voluntarily, and only then being open to new messaging, new policies, and new approaches? If so, is that one of the challenges for the left? Since their leaders, policies, and approaches are so marginalized that they are never implemented, they have no real world failures prodding them to change anything — unlike Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump voters, who can watch what they were promised fall apart right in front of their eyes. Some still don’t, obviously. But it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to say that aside from the outside noise of paid operators, the Democratic base has shrunken down to the approximately 10-12% that either directly benefits from its real practices, or at least aren’t directly harmed by them.

        When I saw the extent and extremity of the strawmanning and misconstruing of my position here yesterday, it seemed reasonable to me to assume some degree of intentionality — particularly given the organized, often paid liberal trolling on social media, which frequently pretends to be to the left or to the right of the actual party and ideology the troll in question supports. But now I’m not so sure, and I’m reviewing the reactions here to see where I could improve my communication of and argument for my strategy. It can’t hurt.

      2. different clue

        There could be some good words for that kind of strategic and tactical dodging of the plain meaning of a post or comment on the part of special-agenda-motivated strawmanners.

        Words like . . . disunderstand, meaning to “misunderstand” on purpose.
        disinterpret . . . meaning to “misinterpret” on purpose.
        disquote . . . meaning to “misquote” on purpose.

        ” Disunderstanding” is to understanding as “disinformation” is to information.” and so forth.

  47. edr

    “If state election offices reported that Democratic Party registrations suddenly dropped to 10% of all registered voters, that’s a message they can’t ignore or write off. Ouch! … to make room for a 3rd party.”

    Now this is a novel idea, and it really sounds feasible!!

    Most people don’t vote for a 3rd party because they are afraid their vote will be “lost,” but if some enterprising organizers got people to register for a 3rd party beforehand, so that the numbers were public 2 years before an election……. different ball game!!!

  48. Cat Burglar

    Provision of universal benefits (Medicare-For -All, expanded Social Security, full socialization of education costs) will remove a large burden of cost from individuals. In everyday life, that will open up time and options as fear of poverty recedes. I remember a friend who held back from joining a large demonstration in Paris that was being violently harassed by police; he told me, “I didn’t have national health care like the Parisians did.” I know more than a few people working in businesses they find morally objectionable who would quit, except for the medical benefits. Many older friends tell me that in the 60s, the higher level of economic security in everyday life meant they could just tell the boss to shove it and get another job, with much less fear than they might feel now. (My hunch is that some of the economic policy induced constriction of everyday life begun in the 70s was because TPTB got tired of putting up with “do your own thing” in politics — they weren’t going to allow people any more slack to explore and create new options.)

    Looked at this way, from the bottom up, getting universal benefits is a way to allow people the free space in their lives to overcome the military-industrial-congressional complex. With the right movement milieux and organizations in a fight for universal benefits, this could overcome the objections to an either-or opposition between universal benefits or fighting the war machine: achievement of the first can free time and energy, and could organize it to accomplish the second. Both objectives can be aligned.

    As I recall, the anti-Vietnam war movement succeeded — the war was defunded, and the US troops left Vietnam.
    While that was done by a vote of Congress, it was preceded by years of contestation and organization on all levels, including within the Democratic Party. According to Kissinger’s memoirs – IIRC – large demonstrations in DC did prevent Nixon from planning a nuclear strike on The North. Ultimately, the constant disruption induced TPTB to give up on the war — and there was very little property destruction (compare it with a real civil war, for example).

    When people tell me I’m being a moral purist about universal benefits and shutting down the military industrial complex, I tell them hell no: I will vote for any sleazy Democrat opportunist running for office who will get them for us. So I see no reason to vote for neoliberal Dems. As Hillary proved, they have nowhere to go.

  49. PlutoniumKun

    Interesting (if somewhat overheated) comments here, I’d just like to throw in my few thoughts.

    People who want to fight on all fronts should beware the Paraguayan strategy. Pick too many fights at once and you end up with nothing. Wise military commanders pick fights one at a time, and never go into battle unless they are pretty sure its one they can win. Even in the most oppressive autocracy, leaders have to pick fights and sometimes compromise, that applies to all political battles.

    The problem with purity tests is that they can become never ending, and allies fall out over whether there is a dash or a space between ‘anti’ and ‘war’. There are plenty of shades of anti-war opinion. Pure pacifists, American firsters, pragmatic defence first advocates, ‘don’t do stupid’ types or ‘first, do no harm’ advocates. I agree with Yves and Marina on this, but I do think that at a minimum a candidate, no matter how good they are on single payer should at least not be an overt ‘bomb first and then ask questions’ imperialist.

    Another point on healthcare for all and anti war. The experience in Europe is that once universal benefits are in place they are extremely hard to remove. The Conservatives have been trying for half a century to destroy the NHS, but they still haven’t succeeded (they have weakened it, but its still there). This despite being in power for decades. So win the battle on universal benefits and you’ve won a war for decades. But for an anti-war movement, thats a generational thing. You can’t make a war machine disappear overnight. You can’t dismantle an empire overnight. 60 years on from its disappearances the French and British are still struggling with the legacy of their empires. It is, in short, a very different type of battle than for universal benefits.

    So I believe that as a strategy, yes, focusing everything on universal benefits now that the overton window is shifting that way makes sense. But not at the expense of having militarists trade healthcare for more F-35’s. Its not unreasonable to insist that your politicians are not in favour of more war and more spending. But realistically, having pragmatists in charge of foreign policy is a reasonable first step to the decades long transition needed.

  50. Donald

    I am a purist of sorts on the antiwar issue but am okay with this post because I think Sanders has his heart in the right place and can be moved in the right direction. I think we see that on Israel – Palestine. In general, Sanders just isn’t that interested in foreign policy, so he makes mistakes, but he isn’t out there leading the charge for more war.

    I would have a problem with someone who was for single payer but hawkish–some unholy mixture of Clinton’s foreign policy positions with Sanders on domestic issues. Ron and Rand Paul are sort of like that, but reversed, as they tend to be antiwar and awful in economics.

  51. davidly

    This, in part on behalf of the guy who some called out early on, not so much for being a status quo militarist, but for being such an historically typical run-of-the-mill sheepherder for the ultimate nominee (the most qualified ever, in this case). This, which posits that roided-up domestic egalitarianism will one day lead Americans en mass to suddenly and miraculously find themselves in a comfortable enough position to begin to focus their ire on the war machine. This begs a more honest appraisal of the a half-century of welfare and labor rights expansion during the cold war. But I suppose that until the US has socialized medicine and universal basic income, decriminalizes drugs and closes all its private prisons and schools, her argument still stands. Screw the fact that the enemies list will continue to expand with equal vigor as those on the deployment end of the obscene military budget await the day when America’s withouts have achieved the level of material security required to take it to “capital’s dogs”.

  52. H. Alexander Ivey

    If I may put in my 2 cent translation of Marina’s position…

    The idea is get politians who will push for 1st. universal health care, 2nd. a minimum wage, & 3rd. low cost banking (h/t Lambert). After those top 3 things, the politians can vote themselves a raise and a tab for life at their favorite watering hole (well, the raise and tab is my idea). If the top 3 get enacted, there will be less time to figure out who else to cut into the pie, there will be less of the pie to spend on the military and thus less push to be military (less being less, not zero. Marina is correct to make it clear that CONUS Americans are always up for a fight, but her idea is to make it the second thing to do after taking care of the folks at home first).

    For those who have clamored for years about what to do, what to do; well Marina has said it clearly. Change the system by voting. Voting for anyone but corporate Democrats. Anyone! And who is a corporate Democrat, and how do I know one if I see one? Well, that is a good question. Time to do some homework.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > low cost banking

      Post Office Bank.

      Not only would that provide every US citizen with an account, it would cut off the money stream to Congress from those who want to privatize the Post Office (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.). As Marina says (coming…), every universal public program not only provides benefits to voters, it cuts off a flow of “contributions.”

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