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06:46 AM on 11/10/12 
#1
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bung
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Minneapolis, MN
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I'm not at all happy with the fact that Obama and the current Democratic Party is in power. I do not support Obama nor the current administration. And it would be difficult for me to express how strongly I wish a more progressive movement was a legitimate alternative. Nevertheless, if a person is in a position to potentially reduce the amount of evil in the world, even by 2% for the span of four years, then I believe they have a moral obligation to do so. Of course, I don't live in a swing state, so I did not vote for Obama, but I did still think it was important for me to vote in MN, if only to make sure our state constitution didn't enact voter ID laws or define marriage as between one man and one woman.

(Also, for the record, I think calling Obama "evil" is a gross stretch which, ironically enough, creates a normative evaluation in which radical leftists and the Tea Party apparently reach a perfect consensus.)
12:06 PM on 11/10/12 
#2
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bung
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I suppose that is where one gets into the details of actual policy, no? Given that, in the context of foreign policy, he has continued the policies of the Bush administration, I think one might legitimately argue that he has cumulatively increased the negative effects of American policy globally.

But we're making a comparison between the potential net negative effect of an Obama presidency versus a Romney one, both foreign and domestic. If we agree for the sake of argument that Obama increased the "negative effects of American policy globally," then surely Romney would either do the same or worse. And if we confine ourselves to discussions of foreign policy, disregarding domestic affairs, then surely improvements in that policy, however unlikely or modest, are at least mildly more likely under an Obama than a Romney.

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It isn't calling Obama "evil", rather, it is a term to refer to a debate that occurs within the left when it comes to electoral politics.

The quote, "You yourself proclaimed that Obama was evil -- just a bit "lesser" so than his opponent," must have misled me, so the fault is my own.
07:14 AM on 11/11/12 
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bung
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Well, I actually think that the foreign policy would remain about the same. The debate on foreign policy was demonstrative of that. If it is the feasibility of change that we are to be concerned with, then one could make the argument that we, as the left, need to show democrats that they must actually be anti-war by voting for anti-war candidates. It isn't as though the left has been quiet on the issues of Afghanistan and the intervention in Libya, it is that they were summarily ignored. Now the critique could be made that they need social movements with more power, however, therein lies the problem which is that electoral politics functions on the basis of de-mobilization those movements, i.e., yes, we hear you, but be realistic and vote for this guy.

In every state that is not a swing state, I agree. The left should vote for anti-war candidates, which is exactly what I did. But I do not see how the goal of electing a truly anti-war candidate is compromised by making sure, for the time being, that the Democrats stay in power until, at the very least, a more desirable third party becomes viable. And I feel the same about more powerful social movements--that is, however one wants to evaluate the extent of their de-mobilization, surely that de-mobilization would presumably be exacerbated, as well as specific social programs being stifled, to a greater extent under Romney. Moreover, one can't assume that de-mobilization mainly or solely occurs as a function of a single variable, namely electoral politics, for the simple fact that nothing social occurs mainly as the result of one variable, much less anything as abstract and poorly understood as "de-mobilization." Nor do I see how not voting at all somehow provides abatement for this de-mobilization. Abstaining from voting is largely not seen as any principled declaration for radical change, but is instead usually seen to indicate political apathy.
03:13 AM on 11/12/12 
#4
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bung
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In my mind, there is a sort of cognitive dissonance when one espouses anti-war beliefs, then proceeds to vote for democrats who are engaging in the policies of the previous administration. Further, by ensuring that they stay in power, one undercuts the building of a genuinely anti-war/progressive party. It functions in two ways: There is the tacit agreement that says, whatever the content of the policies actually are, we will vote for democrats, however, since they know this, there is no real reason for them to adjust their policies; all they have to do is let republicans espouse their policies and position themselves as the better alternative. This creates a political environment in which third-party candidates are vilified or portrayed as a waste of time because "we need to vote for someone who can actually win". I'm sure you remember the 2000 election and the subsequent treatment of Nader by the left in 2004.

Well the treatment of Nader was precisely the result of a Bush victory, which only goes to show that the left needs to be strategic about, on the one hand, supporting a proper third-party candidate and, on the other hand, about when and where to vote for that candidate. But nevermind that, because the changing of Democratic policies can result (slowly) as they see support for third parties rising and/or various social movements gaining traction, which can occur simultaneously with a Democratic victory over Republicans. At best, we have an excellent argument for implementing a type of approval voting system, which would drastically reduce our problems in this area. As an aside, I also think you underestimate just how little support the far left has in the United States.

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I actually think that the left fought more bitterly when Bush was president than what we have now. Under Bush, there was an understanding that his loyalties did not lie with us. With Obama, there is the misconception that he is "one of us" and just needs the right senate, the right house of representatives, the right argument or whatever other excuse one hears when he does things that are to the right of Nixon.

There was a period under Bush when the pro-war sentiment, among both the right and the left, probably had not been as strong as since WWII. So immediately your assessment is questionable. Your statement also seems to imply, if taken to its logical conclusion, that we should make things as terrible as possible for the American people so that they fight more bitterly, which is quite a dangerous position to take.

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I think one can point out a general trend with regard to the activities of the left when elections come around. For example: During the 2004 election season, I recall receiving reports about how organizations were abstaining from actions because the demands conflicted with Kerry's platform, or some were redirecting energy to getting out the message of "anybody but Bush" or having voting drives and things of that nature. One might just write that off as the intense nature of that particular election, but it happened again during the 2006 mid-term elections, then again in 2008.

I don't mean to deny that electoral politics can undermine social movements or mobilization at times, but your initial post suggested that its very function necessarily results in the de-mobilization of all such movements, which is simply not true--otherwise no social movements would ever occur, as they would all be de-mobilized every two years.

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Well, I think that view is largely ideological, insofar as elections are situated as the paramount of democratic activity. If one takes the time to explain your position with regard to supporting third-parties or not voting at all, they can understand that it stems from a frustration with both parties - even if they themselves pull the lever for those parties. Further, I am not saying that one shouldn't vote at all; rather, I critiquing how voting for democrats becomes "movement work", how it becomes an end unto itself and how it ends up reproducing the very policies that one was previously against.
I am by no means dogmatically against electoral politics and I can see situations in which it can be an effective means of change, but in those situations, such as in Greece for example, those electoral parties are also activist parties that are doing the groundwork in working-class communities. This creates a genuine interactivity between the needs of those communities and the actual policies of those parties. That simply does not exist in the US.

I don't have a genuine disagreement here, but I would add that, while it may be helpful to take the time to explain to someone why you're, for instance, not voting, it's unlikely to change the general view people have that to not vote stems from political apathy. That is, they will place you, the principled non-voter, into a special mental category, while the vast majority of other non-voters will be kept in their original category in which they are ascribed the trait of political apathy.
03:16 AM on 11/13/12 
#5
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bung
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The pro-war sentiment is a little unfair of a comparison since this was the biggest attack on american soil in history and everyone was rallying behind the nation.

And I think the point is that with Bush at least the left knew that they had to fight. With Obama they assume he has similar interest but he often caves or even proposes legislation that cuts social safety nets and intrudes on civil and human rights. Meanwhile the left can place the blame on the right without fighting where responsibility lies, in part at least.

Of course it's unfair, but it instantly refutes the idea that the left were somehow "bitterly fighting" against war and now they’re supporting or ignoring it or something because Obama took office. And I understood what he was saying, which is why I took the point to its logical conclusion.

Let it be said that studies have been done to demonstrate that Nader did not cost Al Gore the election. Rather, it was the Supreme Court and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of democrats to speak for the disenfranchised voters in the state of Florida. They did need a scapegoat and Nader served that purpose. The other purpose it serves is, as you say, a warning of what can happen when we do not vote for democrats. There is something to be said about strategy, but the question then arises: if this is the strategy, and the focus is on that strategy, then what room is there for debate of the DNC's policies, about third parties and at what point it is time to walk away from the DNC. There is a point at which the strategy becomes an end unto itself rather than a means to achieve anything broader.

There is definitely a point at which we must walk away from the Democrats, assuming their policies don't change significantly, that is. Was it this election? No, I don't think so. Even in non-swing states third-party candidates get paltry support. The left (I mean the left as distinct from the Democratic Party, here) has no strategy, and so they have nothing to implement. I see nothing good, however, resulting from a strategy that allows the Republicans to gain power and momentum.

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Or, alternatively, there can be change with republicans in power over democrats. To use Nixon as an example again, he was to the left of Obama in domestic policy. This was not because he had a fundamentally different view of the world than Obama, rather, it was because the social upheaval had produced a political context favorable to left-of-center policies.

Yes, social upheavals can change the political context, and this could happen while either a Democrat or Republican is president. But what reason is there to think that such an upheaval, in favor of the left, is somehow more likely under a Republican? It could just as well cause a more massive Tea Party-like movement.

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I don't expect most Americans to have a familiarity with The Communist Manifesto. However, if we were to take a poll with regard to, say, the strength of unions, the availability of health care, their opinions about war, whether civilian deaths are acceptable, or whether social programs should be on the table, and so on, I think one would be surprised with the overlap between the views of someone like myself and the general public.

It would depend on how you frame the question. Put it broadly enough--should healthcare be available to everyone, should there be extensive social programs, etc.--then the left and the right will agree. They just differ about where those things should come from. Although, mention anything about raising taxes, and I think people will show where their loyalties lay.

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I would argue that this is a product of the dichotomous political system. Bush advocated war, the democrats acquiesced and the boundaries of acceptable discourse were therefore set.

I don't think the dichotomous political system helped, but I would more agree with jawstheme here.

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Those which thrived are those who saw the movement as outside of the electoral politics. There is a reason that the anti-war movement failed, while the immigrants rights movement fundamentally changed the debate: one was wedded to the electoral system, the other was outside of that realm and forced both to concede.

Well gay marriage was a part of Obama's platform, and that overwhelmingly succeeded. Marijuana legalization was outside electoral politics and that succeeded. I see confirmation bias in your position and the continued untenability of single-variable, unilateral causation.

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And I think we need to examine why people do not vote. I would say it is because the system has become ossified and like myself and others, they do not see a genuine pathway to make their lives better.

Which is no doubt partially true. But, although it's a cliché, there are a lot of people who don't vote because they literally don't follow politics and just don't care, among other things. According to the 2010 Census Bureau survey, reasons people give for not voting are "Too busy" (26.6%), "Not interested" (16.4%), "Illness or disability" (11.3%), "Out of town" (9.2%), and "Forgot to vote" (8.0%). "Don't like candidates or the issues" and "Other" came in at 8.6% and 9.0%, respectively. I repeat my conviction that every social phenomenon necessarily involves more than one variable.

Anyway, I feel I've said my piece, and have reached my critical threshhold for multi-quotes, so you may respond to my replies, but I'll likely read it and be done.



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