Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘useful idiots

Friday End of the Semester Why Aren’t I Already Sleeping Links

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The First Step Is to Smash the Existing Liberal Coalition

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It’s no surprise that publications like The Nation, no matter how earnest in their opposition to the worst excesses of the Clinton or Obama administrations, have been prone to paint too many segments of the diverse Democratic Party as good-faith partners with progressives. Case in point: during last year’s labor dispute, in her “Sister Citizen” column [October 8], Melissa Harris-Perry equivocated between the insurgent Chicago Teachers Union and Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Instead of closing ranks and protecting a vulnerable union during an important fight, she pitied the children stuck “between the leaders and teachers who are supposed to have their best interests at heart but who seem willing to allow this generation to be lost.” There was no deeper analysis of the stakes of the dispute or acknowledgment that the demands of the teachers—geared almost entirely toward student needs—enjoyed high levels of community support. Political conflict itself was painted as regrettable, and perhaps because Emanuel was a prominent Democratic leader, as a kind of fratricide.

Bhaskar Sunkara, Letter to ‘The Nation’ From a Young Radical.

Which is to say that the left needs a plan—a plan that must incorporate more moderate allies. American radicalism has had a complex and at times contradictory association with liberalism. At the peak of the socialist movement, leftists fed off liberal victories. Radicals, in turn, have added coherence and punch to every key liberal struggle and advance of the past century. Such a mutually beneficial alliance could be in the works again. The first step is to smash the existing liberal coalition and rebuild it on a radically different basis.

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism—goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. The ground can be softened at the intellectual and cultural levels, but a schism will have to be forced through actual struggle. Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods, especially if that means standing up against pro-corporate members of the Democratic Party like Rahm Emanuel.

UPDATE: Malcolm Harris links to this “useful idiots” piece as a retort:

These are points Sunkara recognizes. His cri de coeur hopes that “a new organization would focus on anti-austerity and work hand-in-hand with liberal allies who want to see the welfare state rebuilt.” While his ultimate aim of going “beyond liberalism’s limits” is beyond quixotic, that’s a feature, not a bug, from a progressive point of view. If history is any guide, American radicals end up furthering the objectives they share with liberals, like expanding the welfare state, while failing abjectly to advance the ones they don’t, like the abolition of private property or the overthrow of the constitutional order. So long as radicals eschew the use of political violence, something progressives unflinchingly oppose on both principled and practical grounds, there’s little to fear, and potentially something to gain, from a rebirth of America’s leftist dreamers.

Saturday Night Tab Closin’

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* If it’s possible to miss the point of Pale Fire any worse than this, I don’t want to know about it. Via PCEgan.

* I second both Steven Chu’s call to paint our roofs white and Atrios’s call for “Green Recovery” government stimulus to pay people to do this work.

* Learned helplessness watch: Congressional Democrats, obviously feeling the heat from my persistent calls to use reconciliation to get around Republican filibusters, have now taken reconciliation off the table altogether. Idiots.

* At least Elaine Marshall is ahead in Carolina.

* Speaking my language: Dreamlands, one of the temporary exhibits currently at the Pompidou Center in Paris, highlights Kandor-Con from artist Mike Kelley, with these observations:

The comics present a different image of the Kryptonian city on each occasion, and Kelley sees in this a complex allegory, the diversity of representations signifying the instability of memory. The installation Kandor-Con includes architecture students who continuously design new Kandors, feeding them to a Superman fan site. For the artist, the inability of the original draughtsmen, the new designers or the hero’s internet fans to fix the form of Kandor once and for all illustrates “the stupidity and ridiculousness of technological utopianism.” The capital of the planet Krypton, says Kelley, is “the utopian city of the future that never came to be.”

You had me at “Bonjour.”

* I was kidnapped by lesbian pirates from outer space! A comic, via MetaFilter.

* Added to my Netflix queue: Brick City, a documentary about Newark said to be “a real-life version of The Wire.” Also via MeFi.

* And added to my torrent queue: The Yes Men Fix the World (legal!). Via Boing Boing.

Health Care Watch (Vermont Is Angry and So Am I)

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Potentially seismic news tonight as Bernie Sanders (backing me up on reconciliation) now says he currently can’t support the health care bill. This comes amidst his fellow Vermonter, Howard Dean, continuing to argue that the bill in its current form is worse than nothing and Joe Lieberman, history’s most absurd villain, actually threatening to join the GOP.

Kevin Drum, Steve Benen, Scott Lemieux, Think Progress, and Nate Silver all say Dean is wrong, and on the policy merits he probably is—I don’t think the bill is actually worse than nothing and if I were in the Senate I’d have to swallow my rage and vote for it. But politically I just don’t know; continuing to be “responsible” and “realistic” when even our allies habitually betray us is starting to look like a mug’s game. (I think the official term for the progressive caucus is “useful idiots.”) Why shouldn’t Obama and Reid have to beg for Bernie’s support? Why should only centrist tantrums count?

Robert Gibbs says Howard Dean is being irrational, and Jane is absolutely right: he didn’t say anything like that about Holy Joe, even when it was actually true. Why not? Russ Feingold says it’s because the Liebermanized bill is what the White House has really wanted all along. If that’s so, they’re the only ones; without a public option support for health care tanks, with good reason to think (as Kos does) that the individual mandate (however necessary) will prove politically toxic without a public option on the table.

Chris Bowers says there are no more happy endings. Probably not.