Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An obvious Democratic strategy

The Democratic strategy for dealing with Iraq, especially given the importance given to withdrawal by the electorate in the 2006 elections, should have been obvious.

First, put pressure on Bush himself and keep it there. Don't let up. Articles of impeachment, censure, special prosecutors, investigations, throw everything but the kitchen sink at the guy. This is the most unpopular and worst President that we've ever had. The Republicans and conservative Democrats will vote down or otherwise obstruct these measures, but keep the narrative simple: "The problems in Iraq are due to Bush's lies getting us involved and his incompetence in prosecuting the occupation. And he's gutting the Constitution in the process." Whatever happens in Iraq is Bush's fault, either directly or by virtue of the buck stopping at his desk. Keep the narrative focused on Bush himself; don't put the spotlight even on Cheney (except to impeach him as well).

Second, put pressure on the commercial media. Have press conferences and talk about every lie, every distortion, every misstep. The commercial media will probably back off and become more neutral, or they will be exposed indubitably as conservative shills.

Step 1: Fail dramatically; construct a narrative.

Introduce a bill asking for everything: "Here's $10 billion, get all the troops out in 90 days." Pelosi & Reid can force it out of committee, even if a Democrat doesn't support the bill: "Although I don't support this bill, because of its importance, Speaker Pelosi/Majority Leader Reid has asked me to release it from committee so the full House/Senate can debate its merits." It gets voted down, but now the progressives have a strong tool to use against conservative Democrats in the 2008 primaries. Let the Republicans blather, and keep the narrative simple: "We're trying to end the war in Iraq. Period. The illegal/immoral/incompetent occupation prevents any other means from achieving progress."

Step 2: Ju jitsu

When things get financially critical, use ju jitsu: Tell Bush he can have anything he wants for six months, let him write the bill, and make sure it passes without debate. The narrative is then, "We weren't willing to sacrifice the troops. Bush obstructed our efforts to end the war and forced this bill down our throats using our soldiers as hostages. Anything bad that happens is his fault." Once the bill passes, nitpick every fault in the conduct of the war, past and present.

Keep up the pressure on Bush personally. Use the narrative of "holding the troops hostage" to sway fence-sitting Democrats and moderate Republicans concerned about how their support of Bush will look. Who knows, Bush might stumble so badly writing his own bill that impeachment might actually happen, or, even better, force a resignation.

Step 3: End the war

Repeat step 1. Now the narrative is even more compelling: "We tried to stop the war, we were stymied only by Bush holding the troops hostage, we have to stop the war now and any bad consequences are Bush's fault." It'll pass. Keep up the pressure on Bush personally; even if Bush hasn't resigned, the pressure will have rendered him ineffective.

End result: The Republican party is marginalized. The right-wing commercial media is neutralized. Conservative pro-war Democrats are undermined. The war in Iraq ends early in 2008. The 2008 election gives us a Democratic president (whichever of Clinton or Obama who fought most strongly) and a solid progressive Democratic majority in the legislature, which outweighs the right-wing domination of the Supreme Court.

This is not rocket science. I'm writing this now instead of eighteen months ago just because I'm not a political analyst. It's still pretty obvious, Negotiation 101 stuff. So why didn't the Democrats pursue this strategy? Why is congress's ratings so low? Why is there still some chance that fascist Giuliani or yet another damn Republican actor might be elected President in 2008? Why are we talking about Edwards' haircut and Clinton's cleavage?

I can't do much more than speculate, but here are my speculations.

One reason is the historical structural disorganization of the Democratic Party. As Will Rogers said, "I don't belong to an organized political party: I'm a Democrat." The Republicans pick up most of the authoritarian, traditionalist sheep; The Democrats get the most of the splintered counter-cultural idiots and the people who use logic and reason. Logic and reason are much more difficult to sell than conservative, traditionalist dogma.

Another reason is the role the pro-Israel* lobby, such as AIPAC, has in the Democratic party. This lobby clearly wants a hot war with the Middle-Eastern Islamic nations, thinking (erroneously, I suspect, but at least a bit more rationally than Bush & Co.) that war will enhance Israel's status and power. No Democratic politician can mount an effective bid for President without their support, and if the Democratic candidates for President don't support a political strategy, it's doomed to failure.

*Unless Israel declares itself something other than a secular democracy, pro- or anti-Israel has absolutely nothing to do with pro- or antisemitism. Most Americans who are Jewish oppose the war in Iraq. I don't know about Israeli Jews, but last I heard the U.S. government doesn't represent them.

Another reason is the love that progressives, especially progressive political bloggers have for inside baseball. Strategy and tactics, demographics, the details of political horse trading; progressives love to talk about this stuff. The progressive movement is chock full of armchair quarterbacks. The rank-and-file Republicans, and the conservative, right-wing bloggers, on the other hand, push a moral narrative. It's a rotten moral narrative, full of lies, distortion and bullshit, but it's always about good and evil, not how to squeeze out a few more votes. Progressive moralists, such as Arthur Silber and Dennis Perrin are more or less marginalized. Compare and contrast the TLB "higher beings" and the difference is obvious.

Fundamentally, though, I think the biggest reason is that most Democratic politicians are supported by the same economic elite that owns the commercial media and supports the Republican party. This elite supports Democratic politicians so as to give the appearance of dissent, not to have them actually change anything.

And both Democrats and Republicans have their eyes on the second largest oil reserves in the world.

I'm appalled by the sheer evil and suffering in Iraq, and I'm very pessimistic about the political situation here. I think if a Republican candidate is not elected outright, Clinton or Obama will eke out a narrow victory, compromised by support for war against Iran and tepid opposition to the war in Iraq. Democrats will not obtain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. At best, we'll withdraw half our troops from Iraq, leaving tens of thousands (and tens of thousands of mercenaries private contractors) acting as a permanent political irritant. Even a Democratic President will probably start yet another war in Iran, if Bush doesn't get there first.

22 comments:

  1. *Unless Israel declares itself something other than a secular democracy, pro- or anti-Israel has absolutely nothing to do with pro- or antisemitism. Most Americans who are Jewish oppose the war in Iraq.

    Haven't you heard? According to Martin Peretz, those Jews are anti-Semites. Gotta keep up, man.

    I don't know about Israeli Jews, but last I heard the U.S. government doesn't represent them.


    The U.S.'s "pro-Israel" movement is far more belligerent and to the right than the Israeli public are themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The influence the right-wing pro-Israel lobby has on the Democratic party is profoundly... er... counterintuitive.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think Congress needs to flex its muscles in general to check the "unitary executive" - impeaching Gonzales would be a good first step there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I ask you again Bum, how can such a public atheist such as yourself not also be an anarchist?

    ALL political systems rest on power (force, coercion, violence, threat of death, dispensation of death), and it is the powerful, not the "people," who wield this absolute and absolutely corrupt power. Democracy, or constitutional republicanism if you will, is no exception. Democrats and Republicans are two wings of the same bird of prey -- a distinction without a difference.

    There is no incompetence in government -- the situation is such because that is exactly how the powers that be desire it. For those profiting from these events, such as the natural resource grab and infinite government contracts in Iraq, it is as perfect as it can get. It has gone on for all of human history and it will continue for the remainder of human history.

    The notion of representative government expressing the will of "the people" has to be the greatest scam in the history of the universe, slightly ahead of religion, and just as widely believed if not more. Some people will understand your logical arguments regarding atheism, but only the most minute fraction of those would make the next logical connection that Statism is simply secular religion.

    I believe that there is no apostasy like anarchy. If you think you get dirty looks and nasty responses from people when you destroy their religious foundations, just try to destroy their political beliefs. It's ten times worse.

    I believe that you have replaced your well-founded lack of faith in "God" with a completely irrational faith in government. Why the inconsistency? What does that do to your arguments?

    I'll tell you what, I love reading your destructions of religion via logic -- it broadens my mind. Perhaps you could apply the same logic to the State one of these days? I'd be very interested to read the results.

    BTW, thank you for maintaining an interesting and well-written blog.

    ReplyDelete
  5. With my apologies, your post was so voluminous that I didn't really bother reading to the end. It seems that you did, in fact, barely graze the surface.

    "Fundamentally, though, I think the biggest reason is that most Democratic politicians are supported by the same economic elite that owns the commercial media and supports the Republican party. This elite supports Democratic politicians so as to give the appearance of dissent, not to have them actually change anything.

    And both Democrats and Republicans have their eyes on the second largest oil reserves in the world."

    A good start, Bum. Keep going.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anarchy seems as pie-in-the-sky as Communism. Though it is a logical conclusion of libertarianism.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Anarchy seems as pie-in-the-sky as Communism. Though it is a logical conclusion of libertarianism."

    The comparison between anarchy and Communism is invalid. Communism is a form of Statism. Anarchy is individualism -- radical individualism, if you will.

    Anarchy is all around you, if you will just see it. If anarchy were "pie-in-the-sky," then you would feel no remorse in beating the crap out of your local 7-11 clerk to get out of paying. I'm sure you are peaceful in nearly 100% of your interactions with others -- that is anarchy.

    Statism, of course, is ever-present as well. However, if each individual refused to acknowledge the validity of the State, by such mundane means as abstaining from voting and every other use of force, the obvious illogic of Statism would be as apparent as the obvious illogic of belief in "God."

    It is this substitution of belief in the State for the belief in "God" among atheists that mystifies me. How could one who sees through the shell game of religion not see through the Statist shell game?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I only have time to comment briefly... In some sense, I'm an "anarchist" in the same sense that I'm a "physicalist": Everything by definition has to be reducible to physical stuff. In the same sense, all political systems are "anarchist": They are the result of individuals exercising their individual will, since there's nothing else but individual will from which to construct politics.

    I think this is a slightly different form of anarchism that you have in mind; radical political individualism still requires some means to coerce people from forming groups to magnify their will, which requires some sort of group to form to magnify their will to impose individualism. Stated thus, the difficulty seems obvious.

    I think it is in this sense that James calls anarchism as much a fantasy as idealistic communism.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Statism isn't claiming things on faith like theism does. You might disagree with the largesse or the hypocrisy of the current form of government, but at the cost of sounding like someone defending the system (I'm a cynic just like the Bum) atleast it's open to change.

    Like the bum said though, even in an anarchist model, you're bound to have people hold elections, build coalitions around similar ideas, and organize as they see fit. How is that different from statism as you define it?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent points, Bum and Devang. I wish I had all the answers, but I'll hazard a few here.

    First, Bum, anarchism is not simply a reduction to individual will, and Statism is not simply some grand version of anarchism. The key idea is force (or violence, threat of death, causation of death). Anarchism by definition means non-violence. Individuals may act violently or non-violently -- in the former, there is the State, in the latter there is anarchy. It's pretty much that simple.

    Second, Devang, the defining characteristic of the State is violence -- this is immutable. The State is open to change only in respect to who controls it, and that will be a limited cast of characters indeed, drawn from the most vicious, backstabbing, power-mad individuals ever produced; i.e., gangsters.

    I think the best that can be hoped for in human society is a radical devolution of power to the smallest possible units -- perhaps neighborhoods or villages, if not down to the individual level. If these units coalitions and organizations were completely voluntary, with freedom of economy, expression, movement, etc., then it would differ from Statism quite significantly.

    However, individuals need to choose nonviolence, and it is extremely likely that coercion is the default position of all human individuals and interpersonal relationships, that non-violent cooperation is a complete illusion, that anyone who advocates a completely voluntary society is full of $#!+.

    The sum of human history is hard evidence to controvert. But that doesn't mean that I as an individual have to legitimize the State -- that's my choice. And, eternally idealistic cynic that I am, I can still dream of this voluntary, non-violent world.

    Forgive me, but after all the evidence of human history regarding the State, for one to maintain a belief that the State is necessary, omnipotent and benificent is nothing but belief in "God" by other means.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jimi: [T]o maintain a belief that the State is necessary, omnipotent and benificent is nothing but belief in "God" by other means.

    No argument there, and that's the best argument against Communism. On the other hand, our current State and its institutions is (in a sense) real, and is the context in which we effect our political will.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anarchy is commonly wrongly perceived as being about terrorism and bomb throwing. In fact, it is about INDIVIDUAL self-government. I'm with Jimi on this one. But the total absence of government and coercion predicates a race of people who are capable of practising self-government. We don't have that at present. So I'm an 'anarchist but' - the 'but' being the need for minimal rules to ensure that everyone drives on the same side of the road etc.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bum,

    "On the other hand, our current State and its institutions is (in a sense) real, and is the context in which we effect our political will."

    There are a whole lot of "we" and "our" in that short sentence. You and I have discussed the collectivist mindset behind those words before. There is no "we" in reality, there is only you and I. Religion is collectivism, and so is Statism. I think you understand the danger of that way of thinking.

    Let me say unequivocally that the State's defining characteristic is violence. Which form the State takes is immaterial -- democracy is just as violent as communism or nazism or monarchism or any other form of Statism. Unless an individual is free to pursue one's own non-violent, non-aggressive interests without any interference whatsoever, the State exists and to preserve its existence must ultimately depend upon killing (or threatening to kill) recalcitrants. Again, this is the same in a democracy or constitutional republic as it is in the strongest dictatorship.

    To this cruelest of situations add the cruelest joke of all -- the illusion of popular sovereignty and you have the modern situation of Statism as global religion.

    In fact, just as Von Clausewitz postulated that war is the extension of politics by different means, so too I can postulate that government is religion by different means.

    This religion of American exceptionalism, that somehow the Founders got Statism just right, is not only fallacious, but incredibly, incredibly dangerous. I believe it has the power to blind hyper-rational individuals such as you or I to the true nature of the State. In my case, I appear to be a bit further along than you at the moment, but meditate for a few minutes and I think you could blow right past me.

    I again refer to Devang's post:

    "Statism isn't claiming things on faith like theism does. You might disagree with the largesse or the hypocrisy of the current form of government, but at the cost of sounding like someone defending the system (I'm a cynic just like the Bum) atleast it's open to change."

    Statism, in its American form of the illusion of popular sovereignty, IS claiming on faith, because all of the evidence of history and logic prove that the State is a mechanism of violence and destruction. That so many believe in it is proof of the power of the illusion.

    Clinging to the faith that the system is "open to change" in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary is a religious belief of the highest order.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anticant,

    It's always nice as an anarchist to have another person stand up in defense. Thanks. Anarchy is a lonely proposition indeed.

    "Anarchy is commonly wrongly perceived as being about terrorism and bomb throwing."

    Thanks to those ridiculous cartoons from the turn of the 20th Century and the corruption of the word by violent individuals who simply wanted to overthrow the government and institute their own version of Statism. The most important ideological battles are fought over language.

    In fact, it is about INDIVIDUAL self-government. I'm with Jimi on this one."

    THANK YOU!!!

    But the total absence of government and coercion predicates a race of people who are capable of practising self-government. We don't have that at present.

    There are historical examples of anarchist societies. However, I do admit that human history demonstrates the difficulty of creating and preserving these societies, especially in large populations. This is why I advocate an initial devolution of power to the smallest possible units, whatever they may be, in tandem with freedom of movement and association to encourage competition -- the "laboratories of democracy," so to speak, of which Brandeis opined.

    "So I'm an 'anarchist but' - the 'but' being the need for minimal rules to ensure that everyone drives on the same side of the road etc."

    Of all the objections to anarchy, it is the "driving on the same side of the road" that is far and away the most popular. This raises an important point -- the conflation of anarchy with chaos. In fact, an anarchic system would have rules and order far superior to a Statist system. For an example of this, survey the situation in Statist Iraq and compare it with the relatively anarchic system on your local freeway, where there is no central control, each individual is free to move within certain obvious rules, and the environment is relatively safe.

    Anarchy is ALL AROUND you! Refrain from violence! Don't vote!

    ReplyDelete
  15. The comparison between anarchy and Communism is invalid. Communism is a form of Statism. Anarchy is individualism -- radical individualism, if you will.

    Both Communism and anarchism assume things about people not otherwise in evidence. That they invoke entirely separate regulatory mechanisms doesn't make that critique invalid.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sounds to me like that, while none of is seems Hobbesean, we've got a Lockean vs. Rousseauean conflict going on here.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think there are a lot of dimensions to this controversy. Enough to fuel a substantive philosophical debate, but too many to adequately resolve in comments.

    If any of you wants to write a substantive post on the topic, I'll put it on the blog (subject, of course, to basic editorial standards).

    ReplyDelete
  18. James,

    "Both Communism and anarchism assume things about people not otherwise in evidence."

    Perhaps. But the key difference is individual enforcement vs. State enforcement. I trust myself, and my fellow individual, far more than I trust the State.

    So, it is a matter of degree, as in, another individual may be capable of causing me, my family, even my neighbors harm, but only the State can cause harm to cities, nations and whole races of people.

    That is quite enough of a difference for me.

    And I am glad that this hasn't turned Hobbesian. Hobbes was an ass who paved the way for the modern megastate.

    As for Rousseau, I'm still waiting for my copy of the social contract to arrive via FEDEX so I may sign it and be a party to it.

    Imperfect as he may be, I'll take Locke any day. I'm more of a Spooner kind of guy.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "If any of you wants to write a substantive post on the topic, I'll put it on the blog (subject, of course, to basic editorial standards)."

    Why does it need to be substantive? How about simple questions:

    "Is Statism a secular religion? Does a secular religion contain the same fatal logical flaws as revealed religions? What can we learn from dissecting the illogic of revealed religion and applying the conclusions to political systems? Would this make for a less violent world? Please post your thoughts."

    Hey, Bum, you started it with your advice to the Democratic Party. LOL!!! You gotta admit, it is an interesting subject.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Substantive in this sense means having some intellectual substance.

    Is Statism a secular religion? That's a good question. What precisely do you mean by "Statism"? By "religion"? Assuming your own answer is "yes", can you point to some actual examples where the question and the affirmative are relevant and interesting? I think both these questions as well as your ideas about the answers would be interesting to my readers; I know I'm interested in what you have to say along these lines, whether or not I agree with you.

    Like I said, if you want to write something up along these lines, I'll publish it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Very challenging -- I will consider my response and get back to you asap.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Jimi: I think you would be interested in the 1951 science fiction novella, And Then There Were None by Eric Frank Russell. As it seems to run along much the same lines as you espouse, it might serve as a starting point for an essay.

    ReplyDelete

Please pick a handle or moniker for your comment. It's much easier to address someone by a name or pseudonym than simply "hey you". I have the option of requiring a "hard" identity, but I don't want to turn that on... yet.

With few exceptions, I will not respond or reply to anonymous comments, and I may delete them. I keep a copy of all comments; if you want the text of your comment to repost with something vaguely resembling an identity, email me.

No spam, pr0n, commercial advertising, insanity, lies, repetition or off-topic comments. Creationists, Global Warming deniers, anti-vaxers, Randians, and Libertarians are automatically presumed to be idiots; Christians and Muslims might get the benefit of the doubt, if I'm in a good mood.

See the Debate Flowchart for some basic rules.

Sourced factual corrections are always published and acknowledged.

I will respond or not respond to comments as the mood takes me. See my latest comment policy for details. I am not a pseudonomous-American: my real name is Larry.

Comments may be moderated from time to time. When I do moderate comments, anonymous comments are far more likely to be rejected.

I've already answered some typical comments.

I have jqMath enabled for the blog. If you have a dollar sign (\$) in your comment, put a \\ in front of it: \\\$, unless you want to include a formula in your comment.