Obama "Risky?" On What Planet?

Kristin Teigen

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that while Barack Obama retains a cozy lead against McCain, a significant number of Americans view Obama as a “risky” choice for the presidency due to his inexperience. A Rasmussen poll shows a similar discomfort, with an increase of 4% (now at 45%) of Americans who have started to think this way since the beginning of his international sojourn.

Risky? Inexperienced? On this planet?

The United States Senator from the state of Arizona, John McCain, has shown that he is profoundly clueless of what is happening in Iraq. In a recent interview on CBS, he showed that he is unaware of the timeline of events of the so-called surge, he is oblivious to the fact that a key Iraqi leader, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, had been killed, and he does not necessarily understand the fundamental difference between the Sunni and Shiites.

Unlike McCain, Obama and his plan for withdrawal has been embraced by Iraqi leadership and he has shown, most likely due to not only his intelligence but his membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to have a solid and impressive understanding of the intricacies of the war in Iraq. So, who is the “risky” choice? Who do we want to continue to navigate the complex world of Middle East politics?

On the next point, hang with me a minute. In a too-long political science/history academic career, one truth that I learned was that in revolutionary countries, those insurgents who ultimately succeeded had, before winning power, constructed a profoundly effective government-in-waiting, a sort of pseudo bureaucracy, so that they were prepared once taking over a government.

Let’s apply that idea to John McCain. His recently departed chief economic advisor Phil Gramm chastised Americans suffering from high food/health care/gas prices and historic foreclosure rates for being just a bunch of "whiners." Further, McCain’s foreign policy staff is a loose collection of folks with no particular assignment other than spouting their own opinions.

In contrast, Obama has surrounded himself with an impressive group of highly organized advisors. A recent New York Times article described his foreign policy team as a “300-person foreign policy campaign bureaucracy, organized like a mini State Department.” The 300 people are organized into teams that handle different geographic and policy areas and are given specific tasks according to their areas of expertise. The advisors include Madeleine Albright, Samantha Power and Anthony Lake. No lightweights, to be sure.

So, who is riskier? A man whose advisor called America a group of whiners and whose foreign policy team operates without direction? Or someone who has already shown an ability to form a highly competent governmental structure?

Now, I could go on. You probably have examples of your own.

Now, my final point. The task of dispelling the supposed “risky” factor cannot be on Obama alone. Democrats, far and wide, need to vanquish this distinctly untrue rumor. So, at your summer barbecues, during your child’s swimming lessons, around your actual water cooler, defend Obama -- and protect your country.

Comments

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Obama is "risky" in much the same vein as Carter. Should he win in November he inherits: a war wear public, spiraling fuel prices, a housing fiasco, economic downturn, crumbling higways, a fratured congress, an international community that doesn't know what they want from the US and an awakening Iran.

    Like Jimmy Carter (the best former President we've ever had), Obama is "risky in that he is untested on the international stage, has little experience outside his home state, and has campaigned on hope for a better tomorrow and "change" without much to back it up.

    Those are the problems the next president faces. I'm certain I've left many others out. To quell the rising concern over "risk" Obama and followers need to address these issues with fact and substance rather than hope.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    Kurt--it's always "risky" to have to clean up after a Republican Administration. If that was a criteria for rejecting Democrats, we would NEVER elect a Democrat, and the mess would pile up until America collapsed completely.

    If McCain gets in, he will spend four years rattling steel balls and threatening to nuke whoever took the strawberries. Better to have a President who will at least roll up his sleeves and do his best to make a dent in the Bush disaster.

  • Josh Reynolds (unverified)
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    Admiral

    I have heard many folks talk about Obama's inexperience and liken it to Bush's inexperience. The question now becomes are we ready to turn the country over to a rookie again? We just went through 8 years of this. Bush was maybe one of the most unqualified presidents we have elected in decades, with regards to his previous experience coming in. I don't care if he was a Governor or not, if people understand Texas politics, the Lt Governor, and the Speaker of the House have more power than the Governor. The Texas Governor is basically a part time job that has veto power.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    The risk in Obama comes from the people behind him such as the morally-challenged Albright, Brzezinski and others we don't know about behind the curtain of Obama's rhetoric. Obama, however, is clearly the lesser risk when compared with McCain whose mental stability is questionable. Admiral N. has it right: "If McCain gets in, he will spend four years rattling steel balls and threatening to nuke whoever took the strawberries." (For the younger generation this refers to "The Caine Mutiny" a very popular book by Herman Wouk and the movie, starring Humprhey Bogart, from 1954.)

  • Douglas K (unverified)
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    To quell the rising concern over "risk" Obama and followers need to address these issues with fact and substance rather than hope.

    Obama's campaign web site is filled with fact and substance on just about every issue that's out there. He's put his substantive positions out there for the entire world to see, and he discusses his policies in Q&A and at just about every campaign stop.

    If Obama's political opponents throw out baseless charges that he's running on nothing more than vague promises of "hope" and "change," there's not much he can do about that. Nor is there anything he can do about people who aren't paying attention and can't be bothered to spend two minutes checking out his web site.

  • ORDemocrat (unverified)
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    Obama is a risky candidate for POTUS due to his lack of experience just like GW Bush was/is. His policies are still undefined and vague. Even at this point in the campaign, it's almost impossible to find an Obama supporter who actually knows the specifics of his future policies. Usually, when asked about the specifics, Obama supporters redirect you to his website (i.e. they have no idea what the specifics are either). Of course, it doesn't help that Obama talks out of both sides of his mouth and flip-flops regularly. So, protect your country, find out what a candidate stands for rather than simply giving blind loyalty to a media-driven icon. Perhaps, Obama is less riskier than McCain...that is up to you the voter to discern.

  • mike w. (unverified)
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    A lot of these things are just to keep media interest alive and stir up the pot. Why is it that the polls of record always show what seems in the air, and these agenda polls, with weighted or slanted questions, come out with this 70+ degrees off center stuff?

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    Perhaps nothing irritates me more than people who cry out for specifics/details/facts who aren't willing to do their own research.

    ORDemocrat (Democrat? Sure!) If you want to know what Obama stands for and his incredibly detailed plans, don't expect to be hand-fed...do your homework.

    Until you do, if you have a specific question about his policies, why don't you ASK it, rather than slamming Obama supporters, most of which know far more than you seem to think.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    I think the concerns lie not only in BHO’s lack of governmental and legislative experience but in a perceived lack of life experience. To say his resume is thin for someone seeking the most powerful office in the world would be putting it mildly.

    His poor performance in debates against Hillary speaks to his limitations in pressure situations. These are genuine areas he will have to address if he is going to win over independent voters.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    I have heard many folks talk about Obama's inexperience and liken it to Bush's inexperience.

    Well, then, the argument answers itself. Bush's reign does prove that inexperience is no bar to a President doing exactly what he wants to do, and getting the intended results.

    The difference is that Obama intends to make America a better place, not shrink it to the point where it can be drowned in the bathtub. And he has an inspired nation behind him.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)
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    If you live on the planet called Afghanistan, an Obama presidency is very risky.

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    Obama is so much better prepared, mentally, emotionally, and experience-wise than McCain. Think about the backgrounds and what their fundamental training was. Consider that Bush is still the cheerleader who always found ways to avoid the hard thinking that he was as a youth.

    McCain spent his younger years ignoring his education (bottom of his class) and focusing on his fighter pilot training. That is a background where you learn to make split second decisions without thought, based totally on trained reactions. The focus is how to kill your opponents and survive by fighting. I can't think of a worse background for a President who has to analyze carefully and negotiate with many conflicting parties.

    Obama took his training in the streets trying to bring people together and form coalitions to better people's lives. He became a top student and thoughtful analyst, digging deep into complex problems (head of Harvard Law Review).

    You can look at almost anyone and what they learned and did in their 20's reflects how they act and think in their later life. (In McCain's case, later-later life.)

  • ORDemocrat (unverified)
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    Kristin,

    I've done my homework on Barack Obama. Have you? Unfortunately, much of America has not. Still waiting for an Obama supporter to be able to articulate his plans for America.

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    ORDemocrat,

    Of course I have and it's quite an assumption that "much of America" has not. Patronizing much? And what specific plan would you like articulated? Why don't you be specific? Detailed? Like you want everyone else to be?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    McCain's experience hasn't been much help in keeping him from making one blunder after the other. Experience is overrated when it includes habitual malpractice.

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    Just out of curiosity...

    How much of 'America' has done indepth policy research on either McCain or Obama? I doubt many. So the idea that this "risk" is all about Obama is stupid, at best.

    Americans aren't going to vote for McCain or Obama because they're enamored with their policies. They're going to vote for someone that appeals to their gut and seems the least like George W. Bush..who people are very unhappy with, in general.

  • Brienne (unverified)
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    I was originally a Clinton supporter, but since she conceded I am putting my support behind Obama. Obama's experience includes being a state senator and U.S. senator. Let's take a quick glance at some of our past presidents and their "experience" before obtaining the highest office, and then re-look at Obama and decide if he has enough experience. It's worth noting that most Representative, Senate, or Governor terms seem to have only been one term. Only Gerald Ford had many years (1949-73) as a Rep. My favorite is Eisenhower, who had one year as the 1st Supreme Allied Commander in Europe before becoming president. And now, what would we do without our Interstate system?

    Franklin D. Roosevelt NY Senator and Governor

    Harry Truman Missouri Senator, VP

    Dwight D. Eisenhower 1st Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, 1951-52

    John F. Kennedy Massachusetts Rep and Senator

    Lyndon B. Johnson Too much to list - lots of political positions

    Richard Nixon California Rep and Senator, VP

    Gerald Ford Michigan Rep (1949-73), VP

    Jimmy Carter Georgia Senator and Governor

    Ronald Reagan California Governor

    George H.W. Bush Too much to list - lots of political positions

    Bill Clinton Arkansas Attorney General and Governor

    George H. Bush Texas Governor

    In conclusion, I think Obama's right up there with the past 80 years of Presidents in terms of political experience.

  • Lenny Anderson (unverified)
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    Believe me, anyone who can rise up thru the politics of south side Chicago is ready for Iran, the middle east, etc. See the current New Yorker for plenty of details. Obama is ready.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    Risk? I don't think so, but consider this. Our country was built upon risk. Our capitalistic system requires risk, with the greater risk earning the greater reward.

    Obama as POTUS will face a myriad of problems, mostly created by the borrow and spend Republicans. It will be a daunting task, but Obama is smart and energetic. He also knows how to surround himself with brilliant minds (regardless of their party affiliation). The last president who was smart, energetic, and surround himself with brilliant minds was Bill Clinton. We had it pretty good during those 8 years.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    As usual, I agree with Chris #12: "If you live on the planet called Afghanistan, an Obama presidency is very risky."

    "...[Obama's] obvious shift on the 'surge' operations in Iraq (underlined by deleting criticisms of it from his website last week) is strengthening his call for 'redeployment' from Iraq to Afghanistan. His current strategy could be summed up as: de-escalate the war in Iraq, escalate it in Afghanistan, and talk to Iran. On Iran, his offer of talks was coupled with an alarming, Bush-style threat. 'I’ll do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.'...It is worth noting that the term withdrawal, let alone a full unconditional withdrawal that will satisfy most of the Iraqi people, has never been part of Obama’s vocabulary." --Sami Ramadani, No U-Turn. Obama’s Stance on Iraq Is Chillingly Consistent

    Obama's website states: “He would reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq.” Consider the word, "potential". Don't you get it yet?

    The difference between McCain and Obama on "experience" is a red herring. What we should be focusing on, as usual with the two anti-democratic parties, is the similarity between them. That's if we care about "purity" issues like justice and unending war.

  • ws (unverified)
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    That a presidential candidate hasn't had years and years of experience isn't as much of a concern to as whether a candidate is a quick study, or in other words, how quick they are to catch on to a situation that needs attention. That's what I'm looking for signs of from McCain and Obama.

    With that in mind, observations expressed in Buckman Res's comment(9:27 am) about Obama debating Hillary, are a concern to me, as are other examples of his skills, such as how Obama handled the Rev Wright dilemma. I hope Obama works out, cause there's no way I'm voting for McCain.

    I'll readily admit I'm not one of those people that have avidly studied Obama's website and acquired an in depth knowledge of his position on issues or who he's assembled for an advisory staff. I'm gradually gradually picking up details about those things as we go along.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    "In the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan. He wants more combat troops, more helicopters, more bombs. Bush may be on his way out, but the Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the loss of electoral power - because their collaborators are, as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, 'bait-and-switch' Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince." (John Pilger, Obama, The Prince Of Bait-And-Switch)

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    Brienne, I am a big Obama supporter and the "experience" factor just doesn't count much for me.

    But I have to challenge your claim that Obama is "right up there" with presidents from the last 80 years. His prior political experience is less than every single president on your list, including George Bush.

    I don't think we get anywhere by trying to hide the truth. This is an election where judgment and demeanor matter most, not "experience" as traditionally measured.

    By traditional measures, Obama is pretty inexperienced. That's the facts, no need to try to deny them.

  • genop (unverified)
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    A couple days ago, I watched as Barrack showed his experience in fielding detailed questions about his Iraq war policies. The media asked some toughies and Barrack (off the cuff) answered them all in detail. He did not try to avoid any questions with non-sensical answers. When the going got tough, he did not signal his handler to conclude the press conference. He stood in there and explained simply his positions. The only criticisms I heard from pundits Included; 1. he said "Israel" when he meant the "US" (a case of mis-speak which did not confuse because the substitution was so apparent); and, 2. criticism about refusal to admit the surge worked, to which he explained his broader perspective than the General on the ground.
    It is arguable whether the surge worked in light of the shift in violence from Iraq to Afghanistan and the growth of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. Like a mostly empty water bottle, when you pressure one section, the water flows to the less pressured sections. As the violence dropped off in Iraq, it increased in Afghanistan with larger pockets of terrorists locating in Pakistan.
    Why shouldn't the whole of the Middle East be considered when deciding strategy in one region? There are after all, strong interconnections between regions. The surge is and was short sighted and only worked to quell violence in one region of the Mid-East. I agree with Barrack's wider view of the whole of the Middle East when considering strategy in the region. In other words if success in Iraq is at the expense of failure in Afghanistan does that mean the surge worked? Am I the only one here who finds Obama's refusal to honor the surge justified? Obama just cruised right by huge risk in giving a wide-open press conference on international affairs. Through my "hope colored" glasses I thought I witnessed a home run. Silly me.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Our country was built upon risk. Our capitalistic system requires risk, with the greater risk earning the greater reward.

    Nice theory but full of holes. Theoretically, the military-industrial complex takes risks and earns correspondingly great rewards, but the reality is that it is our men and women below flag rank that run the greatest risks and all too often pay the ultimate price.

    Other major corporations run risks, but if they are big enough the government will bail them out.

    The last president who was smart, energetic, and surround himself with brilliant minds was Bill Clinton. We had it pretty good during those 8 years.

    Another nice myth. Clinton went along with some "brilliant minds" (Alan Greenspan, for one) and now we are paying for some of their policies. Worse still are the estimated half million Iraqi children who died while the Clintons, Albright, et al, presided over the U.N.-imposed sanctions on Iraq.

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    Genop,

    No, you're not the only one who likes Obama's refusal to honor the surge. When Obama gave his response about it, it showed that he not only had an intricate knowledge of the details on the ground, but he was not willing to bend himself to a soundbite. Thanks for pointing that out so well.

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    His prior political experience is less than every single president on your list, including George Bush.

    That's not true, Paul. At least, not if you're talking about number of years of service in elected office.

    George W. Bush was Governor of Texas for six years. Barack Obama will have been a U.S. Senator for four years, plus eight years as a state legislator.

    I suppose one could make a qualitative argument, but that wouldn't seem to hold up for Bush either - given that the Governor of Texas is only the 5th or 6th most powerful statewide elected official in Texas.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    This is a non-Z-Sustainer link to John Pilger's article referenced by Harry K. above. Read, weep, and withdraw from your Obama-induced euphoria.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    So Bill, what is your set of solutions and why aren't they prominent on the national scene as an alternative to Obama. Do you have your own light or do you just curse the darkness.

    I surmise you are on the far left. I apologize if my assumption is wrong.

    I used to be on the far left myself - SDS & Chicago convention protester. However the more I associated with the far left, the more I saw people without positive vision, and worse, people with great misanthropy and personal demons in their lives - wife abuse, drugs, criminality, infidelity. In other words they were no more enlightened or perfect than the rest of humanity. In my old age, i am more pragmatic. Sh*t happens! Sometimes there is nothing we can do about it. Sometime we need to rally the troops if we have any chance of doing something positive about it. The polarizing extremes have never provided good solutions in my estimation. Why, because ego-centricities get in the way of clear solutions.

    Obama may be steeped in euphoria, but comapred to all the alternative presidential nominees, including Nader, he is the only one that inspires me. (And I am not dumb!)

  • Susan Watkins (unverified)
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    Maybe a build up of the military in Afghanistan is for the purpose of attacking Iran from the Afghan side. Invading Iran from Iraq as well as from Afghanistan would destroy Iran.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Re "...without positive vision, and worse, ...with great misanthropy and personal demons in their lives - wife abuse, drugs, criminality, infidelity":

    According to RichW, he "used to be 'far left'", and therefore he used drugs, committed crimes, and cheated on his wife, whom he beat. Glad to hear you stopped all that misanthropy, RichW, when you became a supporter of candidates and parties who are war-mongering anti-Arab/anti-Persian racists and Bush-lite fascist-apologists. Take pity on those of us who lack the courage to make the transition.

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    Kari,

    Agreed on GW Bush, although he did win election as governor in the second most populous state. Point is, on that list, GW Bush is the only argument. For the rest, Senator Obama does have a pretty short resume, by traditional standards.

    May be a strength, may be a weakness, but I'm not going to pretend it's not there.

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    Paul,

    I think a key part of your statement is "by traditional standards." Considering that he didn't come from a well-established family, he did not have automatic entre into the upper echelons of the military, the diplomatic corps, or other such institutions.

    As anyone who has done grassroots organzing knows, though, it provides a level of experience that is desperately lacking in the higher ranks of government.

    While his work as an anti-poverty organizer doesn't fit the standard politician resume, I am very thankful that we will finally have someone in the Oval Office who has spent so much time with the people who are often the hardest hit by a faltering economy and government cut-backs.

    I think this experience should be valued as much if not more as any other item on a presidential candidate's resume.

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    Instead of experience how about measuring by life experience?

    Obama years in Indonesia saw him living at ground level, far outside the sphere inhabited by American and European expats. His mother woke him several hours before school and totured him every day before he went out to school.

    Junior high and high school in the only truly multi-cultural sate in the US, Hawaii. College in California, hwere he sampled the various flavors of what passed for campus activism, and found them to be trite, self-referential, and ultimately non-productive.

    Then off to the tree years of community organizing in a city being run by a shiny new African American Machine, which he ultimately judged as currupt and ineffective.

    Off to Africa, where he delved into the many facets of post colonial home rule, ith theoretical socialism, the get along with the old masters corporatism, the endemic corruption, and his father and family's place in all this. Then back to Harvard, The Review, and interaction with various relatives and community members who were pursuing their own peace through conversion to Islam or Back to Africa movements, and found none of this to be his cup of tea either.

    All the while reading the great theorists, both African American and European. An entire life in pursuit of solutions and hard nosed appraisals of the successes and failures of earlier efforts.

    That's relevant Experience.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    Thank you for the personal attack, Harry.

    But you didn't answer the question, perhaps due to your imperfect reading of my post. Tell me who is the alternative candidate to Obama that can inspire the country to elect him/her in November?

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    RichW: You're welcome, but don't you think your own attack on those of us who were leftists in the sixties deserves a response? You sure can dish it out, but you can't take it, can you?

    Your question(s) were not asked of me (You apparently don't even read your own posts); they were directed at Bill, who is quite capable of speaking for himself. (And I want to say to Bill that I respect your principled position on Nader, even if I disagree about the "safe-state" strategy.)

    I've been posting answers to similar questions here for years. Here's a short recapitulation:

    (1.) If the DP were "progressive", as most DP regressives claim, it would first of all stop showing contempt for democracy. You would select candidates who represent the progressive base of your party rather than those who support corporate and military hegemony, like Obama. And you would act on what the overwhelming percentage of your membership wants, e.g., impeachment of the war criminals Bush and Cheney; an end to occupation and terrorizing, etc.

    (2.) My positions, like Nader's, are centrist/progressive positions, not "far left": Political Issues that Matter for 2008. If you haven't actually read this already, you're no better than the Republicans who haven't read Obama's positions.

    (3.) If you really ever had been "far left", you would already know that those of us to your left want justice, peace and democracy, and we want candidates who exemplify those standards.

    (4.) Even if there were no people in America who were representative of those standards (and my experience is that there are several on every street corner), you should not accept candidates who, every four years, run on militaristic, corporatist platforms, e.g., Obama, Kerry and Gore.

    Re: your "Sh*t happens!" - Isn't this Rumsfeld's position? Now I understand why Obama inspires you.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    I surmise you are on the far left. I apologize if my assumption is wrong.

    Your assumption is entirely wrong. I often find myself in disagreement with people on the far left. I am an independent which means that I follow certain principles and not party programs or ideologues. I cling to the apparently now quaint concept of all people having a right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and justice. I also happen to believe in the law and the Constitution. That may mean that there are times when I appear to be on the "left," but it also puts me in line on some occasions with some people on the "right."

    Your apology is accepted.

    I may have to go off line for a few days so don't jump to other conclusions if I don't respond to other comments.

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    Kristin

    I completely agree. That's why a list like the one above comparing Obama to past presidents is not only inaccurate, but into the GOP framing of this issue.

    Harry

    I don't think there is any evidence out there, at least from the polling data that I have seen, showing that the base of the Democratic party (defined either as those who self-describe as activist, contributors, and certainly not those who describe as adherents or regular voters), adopt many of the positions you describe.

    By any reasonable ideological measure, Nader is far left. You are right to argue that self-described centrists may have little sense of what issues animate the left, but by the same token, your self-described leftist orientation does not put you in a particularly good position to make claims about what the mainstream base of the party believes.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    Harry,

    Did I attack all the lefties of the sixties? No, I merely pointed out the hypocrisy of many who were for "justice" but didn't practice what they preached. And as I further explained, they were no different than the rest of humanity. They did not meet my expectations. Tell me how the vandalism of those who broke store windows and even looted those stores during the '68 Chicago protest advanced the cause of justice.

    You responded with a snarky personal attack. I never attacked you personally. I can take whatever you throw at me because it is meaningless to me. I was sincere when I thanked you for the personal attack because it proved my point.

    Even Rummie can be right on something sometime.

    My point remains. Show me a VIABLE alternative to Obama and I'll vote for him or her. Nader is NOT viable,and yes I have read his positions. He just has not captured the hearts and minds of voteres enough for us to take his candidacy as nothing more than a protest. Sometimes protests do change the world, but in his case his is dismissed as ineffective by a vast majority.

    I have said before "Obama - warts and all" because no one else even comes close to inspiring me. In 1992 I strode down to my polling place (before vote-by-mail) with energy to vote for Clinton. With all of his warts, I am not sorry I did. Obama may never be able to live up to the hype of his campaign. I am sure, as President he will falter on one or another issues. But it comes down to him being our great hope. No one else comes close.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    paul g said, "I don't think there is any evidence out there...showing that the base of the Democratic party...adopt many of the positions you describe."

    How about impeachment of the war criminals Bush and Cheney (75-80%)? How about an end to the occupation of Iraq? How about a crackdown on corporate crime and corporate welfare? How about single payer, universal health care? How about cutting the bloated Pentagon budget? How about even-handed treatment of the Palestinians and Israelis?

    There is plenty of data out there that shows that not only the membership of the DP is far to the left of the DP elites, but a majority/plurality of the country. And that is the true center of political thought in the U.S.

    Here's what David Sirota says:

    "As the Associated Press claimed in a typical description, Obama's shifts are designed 'to appeal to the center of the electorate.'

    However, empirical data prove 'the center of the electorate' is exactly the opposite:

    -- Polls by Quinnipiac University and the Mellman Group found majorities support warrant requirements for wiretaps and oppose immunity for companies that released private consumer information without such warrants.

    -- Surveys by Fortune magazine, CNN and the Wall Street Journal report that most Americans oppose NAFTA-style trade policies.

    -- For years, major polls have consistently shown Americans want a firm timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. As just one of many examples, five separate USA Today surveys since 2007 have shown majorities want the president to 'set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq and to stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq.'

    So, the undebatable evidence tells us precisely where the center of public opinion is. Yet when a presidential candidate moves away from the center, we are told he is moving toward it. What gives?" (In search of the American 'center')

    Most BO posters wouldn't know "the left" if it bit them on the ass. Nader and I seem to be "far left" to you only because you're so far to the right that any real centrist would seem left.

    Nader believes in restrained capitalism, peace and justice. If you think that is "far left", you need to go back to school.

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    Let's unbold all the far vs very very far left shouting.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    RichW: Especially since I know that your definition of "far left" is far to the right of my definition, I see your comment as casting aspersions on many fine people who I knew in the sixties.

    Let's take your words and substitute "gays" for "far left", as in, "...the more I associated with the gays, the more I saw people without positive vision, and worse, people with great misanthropy and personal demons in their lives - spouse abuse, drugs, criminality, infidelity." Understand now?

    Fourteen percent of the population believe Nader is the best candidate, even though only six percent say they'll vote for him. This is with a virtually complete MSM blackout of his campaign. (Someone on BO keeps asserting that Nader is not campaigning!)

    What would happen if we had a real series of debates with candidates that ran the gamut from Ron Paul to Nader? Here's what I think would happen: people would be informed about real alternatives. The more McBama would tread the right-wing "center", the more people would understand that only the "alternative" candidates offer "change". Would that mean that a progressive government would be elected? The future is unwritten.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    "RichW: Especially since I know that your definition of "far left" is far to the right of my definition, I see your comment as casting aspersions on many fine people who I knew in the sixties."

    Pardon me but you know nothing of the sort. Yes, I do cast aspersions on the criminals and misanthrops who claimed to be for justice. I also recognize there were many fine people (who also scorned the miscreants, if only privately).

    We probably have more in common than you think. All I am saying is that Nader is not an alternative to Obama because Nader has zero chance of winning. When Nader was blamed for Gore's loss in Florida, Naderites countered, correctly so, that Gore failed to win Fla on his own. Thesame can be said for Nader's campaign. He doesn't have the critical mass to be an effective candidate. Lets see if he even gets anything close to that 6% in November.

    Blame the MSM? Now you sound like the Freepers. But even so, a viable candidate knows how to manage the media. Nader was somewhat effective in 2000 but has now lost that touch. He is now the Harold Stassen of the 21st Century. Compare this with Obama who virtually came out of nowhere when the MSM was stating that Hillary had a lock on the nomination. There is not a choice from center to far left. It is Obama over McCain for all of us. Anyone else is chaff.

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    Harry,

    Nader has essentially a social democratic program. It isn't "far left" in the sense of being revolutionary. It is on the left end of the effective political spectrum in the U.S. (i.e. you can find a few elected members of Congress who more or less agree with him).

    It isn't true that your evidence is "undebatable." The question is, how do we look at differing responses to differing wordings of poll questions.

    Your interpretive rule is that if a poll question produces results that correspond to your own view, that is the question that reflects "true" public opinion. That's an unfounded interpretive rule. There's no reason to say that the different questions that produce different results are any less "true."

    The thing is, most Americans don't have strong ideological positions. They haven't thought through positions from various angles to come to the kind of view you'd regard as principled. So if you pose questions from different angles, they give different answers.

    The right wing can cite polls that support their positions on various things.

    It also is the case that when polled on items in the Bill of Rights without having them identified as such, and particularly if framed in terms like "regardless of their effects on national security," you can get majorities against most of our civil liberties.

    I notice that the Nader issue page actually does not address Iraq or Afghanistan at all, which is fairly remarkable.

    The conclusion I draw from the variability of polls is that persuasion and argument matter. Name-calling isn't an effective mode for that.

  • marv (unverified)
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    What never ceases to amaze me is the extent to which a few folks will go to justify a fear of Obama. He has shown a strong capacity to play politics at the level required; he is affiliated with the Chicago school of Milton Friedman's disaster capitalism..Bush's continuation of what Reagan started and Clinton continued is not in any danger. The military budget is growing vastly out of proportion to any need and there is no ability to stop it. Who is fearing the loss of the Republic? Guess if you have enough guns it doesn't matter. There will never be a country that achieves what we could have become. How tragic.

  • Patriot (unverified)
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    You guys are all funny. You have no idea what you stand for. Mr Bush is the most unpopular President EVER and Obama is ahead of the Republican candidate by what an average of 3 percent? If Obama wins it will because of switching one MAYBE 2 states. I honestly feel sorry for you guys.

    You are STAYING TEH COURSE just as you accuse Bush of doing. I mean i just read all your comments. We have one guy saying Carter was great on foreign policy. Ok idiot did you live during that era? you have some one else saying Obama is doing a great job explaining his positions. I know that might be what you hope for but come on, he obviously isnt or he would be doing better. And then you say that he cant do any more. HAHAHA yes we can yes we can yes we can. He can hope anything into existance why cant he just CHANGE all our minds?

    Then we have one guy talking about hgow great Clinton was. It was not him, he was a bit busy if I remember, it was the peace we lived in, and the base of the economy set up by Reagan and Bush plus the internet boom that did that for him. And as far as experiance goes, I think it counts for a bit, but maybe not as much as some people out there, but I can still find it funny that a lady up there was saying Obama had just as much experiance as presidents for the last 80 years lol

    Oh and i cant even really comment on the guy who said working on the south side of chicago "couldnt" be harder then takin on Iran. Really? Really? I hope Obama is at least not as nieve as you!

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris L:

    (1.) Nader is "to the left end" only if the usual suspects on BO and in DP/RP leadership are compared. Tell me which of Nader's issues are too "far left" for you. I've been asking this question on BO since Nader announced, and none of you will answer (because it will reveal how far to the right you are).

    (2.) I never said that my evidence is "undebatable." It was David Sirota (who I believe is a Democrat) who said that; that's why I put quotation marks around what he said (" ").

    (3.) When you say, "Your interpretive rule is that if a poll question produces results that correspond to your own view, that is the question that reflects 'true' public opinion," that is a strawman argument, and not worthy of you.

    You have no idea what my "interpretive rule" is because you've never bothered to debate different poll outcomes; instead, you've attacked any reasonable analysis of poll data because it would place you in a position of having to acknowledge that most DP elites are far to the right of "center", and because it would also place you in a position of having to challenge people like Chomsky, Zinn, Klein, Bennis, Herman and Sirota, among many other true progressives.

    When you say, "There's no reason to say that the different questions that produce different results are any less 'true'", that is nihilism. Social scientists say otherwise, and you either lack the knowledge necessary to evaluate different poll results, or you are just propagandizing when it suits your argument.

    (4.) Your failure to find Nader's position on Iraq is dumbfounding to me. You need to read better. (You can omit the part about poll results if you want):

    Reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East:

    "Nader/Gonzalez would reverse the current policy in the Middle East.

    The current political strategy of pre-emptive war in the Middle East is a disaster for both the American people and the people of the Middle East. It has bloated the already wasteful military budget and has cost at present over 4,000 American lives, nearly 100,000 American injuries, and over a million Iraqi civilian lives, plus the destruction of their country.

    Nader/Gonzalez propose a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

    A target of withdrawing troops in six months will be set.

    Fifty-eight percent of Americans want troops withdrawn from Iraq and a January 2006 poll shows that 72 percent of American soldiers in the field in Iraq wanted the U.S. out of Iraq within six to twelve months."

    (5.) Your "name calling" argument is unjustified. No one has been personally attacked on BO more than me. I don't complain about that; I just give as good as I receive.

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    Harry,

    I apologize for misreading Sirota's words as yours. I expect you're right that he's a Democrat -- either the DPO or the Multnomah Co. Democrats were promoting a recent visit by him on a book tour at Powell's. Both facts might suggest that the DP is more complicated than you allow.

    You're right that I was wrong about them not addressing Iraq that and did a poor job navigating their site -- I didn't figure out that the items listed on the contrast checklist actually were links, and thus focused on the more clearly identified links below the checklist.

    It might make sense for them to actually put the word Iraq in the link -- seeing "Middle East" policy whole is good, but I think is probably one of the areas where if they're really out to counter the propaganda situation they shouldn't assume that what's clear to them will be obvious to everyone they're trying to reach. Just my opinion, of course.

    Their Iraq position is o.k., though interestingly not as strong as a resolution passed by the Democratic Party of Oregon, which mirrors the position of Iraq Veterans Against the War in also calling for reparations to Iraq. That resolution of course has no hope of influencing actual policy just by virtue of having the right stance. Even so with Nader/Gonzalez. See also a resolution on the UN in Iraq not unrelated to the Nader/Gonzalez position.

    <hr/>

    Harry, Nader's positions are not "too far left for me." If I haven't said so clearly before, let me say so now. I agree with most of them, and on ones where I don't it's usually from the left (e.g. Nader's immigration position, not mentioned on his website [like abortion rights, women's rights more generally, and LGBT rights, guess he's still down on "gonadal politics"], his "Israel is the puppet-master" theory of U.S.-Israel relations, with which I know you also disagree).

    When I voted for Nader in '96 as an anti-Clinton protest, I had no problem doing so as far as his positions go. He's basically running on a social democratic platform and that's pretty much what I am ideologically. The silences on civil rights issues beyond racial/ethnic affirmative action do bother me.

    Nonetheless it is my belief that those views are on what I called before "the left end of the effective political spectrum" in the U.S. By that, I mean what people will actually vote for in sufficient numbers to elect someone or pass laws.

    It is essentially because of the empirical facts of voting that I haven't tried to go deeper into polling with you. However, you have never offered a "reasonable analysis of poll data" that actually considers the whole range and argues why some polls should be accepted and others rejected when they differ, any more than I have -- I admit I have not either.

    Why you think I'd challenge Phyllis Bennis I have no idea. I find her thinking lucid and useful; I even had the luck to get a chance to talk with her a bit at a Palestinian human rights conference in town a few years ago. My main political activity is in the anti-war movement working with people who mostly align with UFPJ, with whom she also works. I haven't read enough of David Sirota to have a view. I've heard Naomi Klein on the radio and what she has to say is interesting, though possibly putting too much emphasis on a neglected process within a larger system to redress the neglect -- I need to read her books but haven't.

    Howard Zinn is a populist intellectual whose work in providing a standpoint for alternative perspectives to those dominant in high school textbooks I respect, but as a professional historian and former college teacher I have a set of issues with him that actually aren't political so much as resulting from having to struggle to get students to see that A People's History is neither biblical writ nor the last word in historical interpretation. I also have some concern he reproduces a tendency on the U.S. left to treat "resistance" itself as a "victory," even when the resistance is defeated, which doesn't really help us figure out how get out of the marginal position we're in, even if it may serve a necessary morale function. That concern is tempered, as with many of my criticisms of various things, by awareness that I don't have the answer either.

    My reading of Chomsky and Hermann is inconsistent, partly because I find their prose tedious -- anti-intellectual of me I know, an example of my failures of principle since opposing anti-intellectualism might be the closest thing I have to a principle. I've heard Chomsky speak a number of times and much of what he had to say was of great interest. He was helpful to the anti-apartheid movement in New Haven / at Yale at one point in the 1980s in ways I respected. If Zinn has a bit of a rah-rah factor about him, Chomsky leads to pessimism, at least for me, and again seems to offer little guidance to action.

    <hr/>

    The empirical voting behavior that has confronted me my entire life is what makes me take the view of the range of polling data that I take. Which readings of which polls, particularly when taking issues in combination rather than serially, better predict actual actions?

    At a certain level, there is a gap between my professed beliefs and my votes. You appear to infer that because of that gap, I don't really believe what I say I do. I suppose perhaps I am doing that with people who answer questions in the abstract in the ways you point out, yet vote very differently. So perhaps that makes you right, that I don't really believe what I say I do, since I don't act on it in my voting. But if you are right about the lack of genuineness of my professed views, why do you apply a different standard to the gap between the broader polling you cite in relation to broader voting?

    But maybe I really do believe what I say, yet vote differently, and maybe you are right that the same is true in the gap between your preferred polls and how people vote. The question remains, why do people vote as they do and what could change that? I don't see you as offering persuasive answers, or really much in the way of answers at all.

    Yet that gap has been what shapes the essentially defensive orientation of my actions in electoral politics. I have never really found an approach to advancing social democratic politics that has shown much promise. My greatest hopes were for the Labor Party for a period in the 1990s, because the LP had a strategy of medium-term organizing, not tied to immediate electoral cycles, backed by substantial material resources. Unfortunately the still-slim chances didn't work out, and circumstances prevented us carrying out that strategy effectively. No one now that I see offers anything comparable involving a medium-to-long term organizing strategy.

    For a reasonably long period I belonged to DSA, but their "inside-outside" approach to the DP was based on a premise and hopeful reading of DP politics by Michael Harrington in the 1970s, before the DSOC-NAM merger, a reading that Reaganism rendered increasingly irrelevant. There was an abortive effort in the early '90s move DSA toward trying to be the core of something that might have been something like what Progressive Democrats of America seems to aim to be, though moving more quickly to a larger scale than PDA probably can, that at the time I played a minor role in obstructing, which I now regret. Maybe PDA has some possibilities.

    The Nader/Gonzalez strategy, however, makes no sense to me as a way actually to advance social democratic politics. I don't think it is working or that it can work. Nor do I think that if I changed my actions that they would have any prospect of making it work better.

    I don't criticize those to whom it does make sense -- if you look back on our discussions I don't believe you'll ever find me saying you should do what I do, or anything other than what you do, except in matters relating to debate and persuasion.

    But you have never made any effort that I can remember to persuade me that I'm wrong, that working for N/G would really advance those politics, and enough so to justify abandoning my defensive concerns.

    You have instead presented the issues essentially as ones of personal and ideological integrity, in which effectiveness is an irrelevant concern, mostly by way of inferring, imputing and accusing lack of such integrity in others, including me directly once in a while and indirectly within sweeping generalizations more frequently. This is such a poor approach to persuasion that it leads me to think and feel you don't really wish to persuade. Either that, or you don't think you can persuade, because you also actually don't think that mode of politics can be effective.

    Your point about responding to other name-calling is fair comment up to a point, I suppose, but only up to a point.

    It appears to me that you do not actually wish to persuade others, but rather to take opportunities to vent frustrations. Apart from my general skepticism of minor party or individual personality presidential electoral politics at the margins, with no realistic prospects, as a vehicle for advancing social democratic politics in current U.S. political circumstances, I am more specifically skeptical and uninterested in joining in such rhetorical strategies of accusation. I believe serious change requires movement building, and that such rhetorical strategies are antithetical to movement-building.

    Further, I believe they give reasonable ideas a bad name, by unnecessary association with poor and alienating rhetorical strategy and tactics.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris L said, "You have instead presented the issues essentially as ones of personal and ideological integrity, in which effectiveness is an irrelevant concern, mostly by way of inferring, imputing and accusing lack of such integrity in others, including me directly once in a while and indirectly within sweeping generalizations more frequently. This is such a poor approach to persuasion that it leads me to think and feel you don't really wish to persuade."

    Every time you guys deride values or integrity, you lose; politically, ethically, morally and spiritually. The right-wingers are right about one thing: Democrats lack a moral compass (so do Republicans, but that's another story).

    We can walk and spit vitriol at the same time. There's plenty to be angry about, and my anger is no different than that of many past activists who were criticized similarly. I take what you and your DP compatriots say to me a lot less personally than you take what I have to say, and I see that fact as a window into our relative senses of guilt.

    I DENY that "effectiveness is an irrelevant concern". Nothing I have said can reasonably be interpreted in that way. The question is what will be effective, and, since we agree that neither of us knows the answer, I don't understand your contention about my supposed indifference. Is effectiveness an irrelevant concern for you? If it isn't, then why do you think that supporting right-of-center hacks is a serious option?

    I have posted copiously detailed arguments that are mostly ignored by the "progressives" who post to BO. Whether or not I "vent my frustrations" does not seem to matter to those who respond. DP loyalists and RP loyalists tend not to read anything that challenges their prejudices, and, even when they do read it, they find some "reason" to deride the truth.

    My experience is that different people are persuaded by different things. You shouldn't be so sure that my style cannot be effective. As much as I prefer what you have to say over what most here have to say, your style, after all, has not changed the intellectual culture of the DP.

    Most of my associates on the left mock me for even trying to reach Democrats, especially Democrats who post to BO. They say that you cannot be reasoned with. I sometimes agree.

    None of us has prevented either the massive suffering we are causing throughout the world, nor the conditions for catastrophe that we now confront, so let's agree to disagree.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Chris and Harry: I've enjoyed your interchange above. Unfortunately, I only have time for a couple of quick comments.

    My position until I read John Pilger's article (above) has been more or less in line with Chris's. Cast your vote where it might have some effect and not for others, such as Nader, who have no chance of winning. As far as the current presidential election goes, I was prepared to give my vote to Obama because I was so opposed to McCain. However, every time I made that statement that quiet little voice we get sometimes caused me to suspect that wouldn't be such a good idea despite whatever logic attached to it.

    But I gave that position some thought after reading John Pilger's article, and it occurred to me that the vote I and everyone else has is a chance to state our position. Either we use it for that purpose or we surrender it to an option we have but don't really care for instead of the one we are more opposed to. Or, to use that overworked phrase, vote for the lesser evil.

    The Democratic Party has made a habit of giving us someone who just manages to qualify as the lesser evil, which means we vote for evil. The Democratic party oligarchs have consistently taken unions, black civil rights movements, and "progressives" for granted and stiffed them after getting elected.

    It is now time to say, "Enough" and time to let the people know where we stand. Whether we vote for Nader, McKinney, Ron Paul, Bob Barr or others we will probably be in a very small minority, but perhaps some day more people will wake up and also say "Enough" and make a difference and we will get the kind of political representatives this country can respect. It probably won't happen in my life time or maybe yours, but at least our conscience can be clear.

    The choice seems to be between a quick disaster under a President McCain or continued decline and inevitable collapse under President Lesser Evil and successors. Or the Democratic Party can change and give the people a better choice. Or a third viable party can come to the rescue.

    "Enough" and enough of this nonsense about being among the hard left. We may be on the left when it comes to some issues, but we are in league with Ron Paul, Bob Barr, LewRockwell.com and others on the "right" when it comes to the Constitution and respect for the law.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    This is one reason why the people of this nation should say "No" to Barack Obama as much as to McCain. Both are agents of corporate America and its military-industrial complex.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Good for you, Bill. Eugene Debs, imprisoned twice for his politics, said that it's better to support someone you believe in and lose than it is to support someone you don't believe in and win. I do think, though, that the absolute certainty of the future is unwarranted. Anyone who had said a year ago that she was absolutely certain that Obama would defeat Clinton would have been dismissed as a fool. The future is unwritten.

    Nader said at a fundraiser last night that he and Matt are pulling more votes from McCain than from Obama. Ralph is not attached to any party or ideology. He has "family values", and many of his positions should appeal to libertarians of good conscience. He could win if the Democrats don't sabotage his campaign.

    Chris:

    When you said, "Why you think I'd challenge Phyllis Bennis I have no idea," it was because those people I listed (including Bennis) all use poll results frequently in their political work, and they would all (especially the ones whose prose is tedious) disagree strongly with your position on the meaningfulness of poll data. Incidentally, if BO were the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I would write long histories and theoretical discussions of competing schools of thought, but this is a blog, and I report results here that I find to be genuine. If you have reason to believe that questions in a particular poll were biased, then you should say it.

    Your reference to Nader's comment on "gonadal politics" from 12 years ago is similar to criticisms I've heard of Chomsky, that he wants to avoid taking positions on "social issues". Do you really think Ralph Nader is anti-woman? If so, you'll have to do better than your last "evidence" of Ralph's "playing footsie with conservatives", which proved just the opposite of your claims.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    I do think, though, that the absolute certainty of the future is unwarranted.

    Correct. I should have said, "The choice seems to be risking a quick disaster under a President McCain or gambling on a continuing decline and possible eventual collapse under President Lesser Evil and successors."

  • Iris (unverified)
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    Obama is risky on THIS planet: A letter I wrote to him recently: Dear Senator Obama, I believe in my ability to work towards and recognize change. Unfortunately I feel that having you in the white house will not instigate real change. It will not bring about: Single payer health care for all. Immediate withdrawal from Iraq, without re-deployment of troops to Afghanistan. Cutting the bloated military budget. No to nuclear power, solar energy first. No to NAFTA! No to corporate crimes and welfare. Repeal anti-union laws. Support accountability by bringing this current administration to justice, or at least not standing in the way. No to Israeli occupation of Palestine, no more of our tax money to support that atrocity!!

    So you see why I can't support you. My vote will go to a 3rd party candidate who is steadfast, with a true progressive agenda as above, focused on Peace and Justice. It's unfortunate for the American People that you don't possess those qualities.

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    Harry,

    I didn't and don't deride values or personal integrity. You're the one who says that people who disagree with you lack them, not me. That position actually goes against what is a fairly important value to me.

    You (I think) are focused on one kind of effectiveness, but as you say don't know how to achieve it. I in contrast am thinking about two kinds of effectiveness. One is constructive toward much more progressive politics than the current DP represents or produces, on the whole, for which I likewise don't have answers. That, roughly speaking, though you might state it differently, is the kind on which I think you are focused.

    But I am also interested in defensive effectiveness. In particular in this cycle I think that a very large strategic institutional question is in the balance: the fate of the courts. They have the potential to be shifted in a profoundly more reactionary direction for 30 years or so if McCain is elected, a shift which would make all of the other struggles we may wish to pursue much more difficult. I do want to contribute to preventing that, so your Debs quote doesn't quite apply.

    Please don't misconstrue me as saying I think Obama's appointments will be great. I just think that preventing a sharply reactionary shift in the terrain of struggle is a worthwhile goal, according to my sense of values and my sense of what gives my actions integrity in the long run.

    I've long since agreed to disagree. I said as much in my previous post.

    Regarding "gonadal politics," what I said was that I find Nader's silence on certain issues troubling, perhaps all the more so since he makes such a point about being forthright in his positions. What then does it mean that he chooses not to enunciate a position on issues important to me? I feel I must at least worry that it means that those would be areas on which he would be willing to "compromise" in order to achieve some of his other goals. Has he repudiated that statement which was dismissive and derisive of those issues 12 years ago?

    I never said poll data aren't meaningful. You still haven't done anything more than assert that your way of interpreting them is right and others are wrong.

  • Paul (unverified)
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    I will probably vote for Barry Obama, but he is no JFK!! I rate him a C+.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    But I am also interested in defensive effectiveness.

    Chris: People have been playing "defensive effectiveness" for decades with the same choice every election: The Democratic or the Republican wing on the corporate bird of prey. Admittedly, the threats from a McCain presidency - more war and the supreme (?) court - are ominous, but we've had similar causes for alarm before. The threat of a nuclear holocaust from Barry Goldwater which the election of LBJ "averted." Instead we "only" got an escalation of the war in Vietnam.

    I said some time ago that Obama might prove to be the curtain behind which corporate wizards are hiding. Now that that curtain has some peepholes we can see who is behind him - among others, morally bankrupt functionaries from the Clinton presidency and war armaments manufacturers.

    If people who want this nation to be the decent society it might be capable of don't make a stand now, then when? In 2012? 2016? 2020? 2024?

  • Alan Locklear (unverified)
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    Hi, this is a just a test because I'm having trouble posting to another blog.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris said: "You're the one who says that people who disagree with you lack them [values], not me."

    Oh, please. This is so over the top. Not all disagreements with me are immoral, just those that have to do with support for fascists and militarists.

    Regarding the courts: Cass Sunstein, Obama's rumored first choice for the supremes, has advised Obama to block any prosecution of either Bush or his aides for "non-egregious" crimes such as torture and unlawful surveillance. (Obama Adviser Cass Sunstein Rejects Prosecution of “Non-Egregious” Bush Crimes)

    Sunstein, in case you haven't heard, supported John Roberts for Chief Justice. He also supports the Bush theory of inherent authority to spy on Americans without warrants (Sunstein An Advisor To Barack Obama?).

    So let's see you talk your way out of that, Chris.

    I'm glad to hear that you now think poll data are meaningful. I guess you didn't understand my argument above. It is not my job to present alternative explanations for poll data that I present; nor would Phyllis Bennis think it was her job to do that. If YOU believe that the data that Phyllis presents is flawed, then it is YOUR job to make your case.

    Nader is the best candidate now running for president. I think that even you would admit that if you weren't desperate to find a reason to support a Democrat. Bill and Iris get it, and I hope you will, too.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Harry K: Thanks for the links re Sunstein. Here is another that is related.

    The more we learn about Obama, the less the differences between him and McCain appear.

  • (Show?)

    Harry,

    I thought it was clear that we were talking about the context of presidential voting choices & it was to that my comment referred. Of course your language proves my actual point.

    Just because you accuse me falsely doesn't mean I ever did think or say poll data aren't meaningful. I'm just not convinced that they mean what you think they do. I have no more burden of proof than you do, and you've refused to discuss the whole range, and been unresponsive to the question of why people vote differently from what you say they believe, which I think provides some evidence that their beliefs are less fixed than you say.

    Thank you for the references about Cass Sunstein. They are disturbing, to say the least. I will be thinking about them and trying to find out more about the "rumors" that Obama would appoint him to the Supreme Court. My argument about the courts has been broader than a single Supreme Court nomination. Still, if the "rumors" represent a substantial likelihood, the prospect of a Sunstein appointment clearly weakens that argument.

    Your accusation that I'm "desperate" to vote for a Democrat is funny. Determined to do so, up to now, I'd cop to.

    If I chose to abstain by voting for a minor party or personal fame candidate, I would be more likely to vote for Cynthia McKinney, since my view about how to advance social democratic politics turns on organizing and movement building, which Nader does not do, while McKinney sort of does, although if I were a Green I'd argue against and presidential campaign focused strategy. Also McKinney has better positions on those issues that matter to me on which Nader chooses silence.

    But in any case I don't see minor party or personality based presidential politics as a good strategy, because I think they tie efforts to the presidential electoral cycle and take resources from where they would need to go, if we could pull more of them together.

    Which also is my main response to you Bill. I just don't see "alternative" presidential voting as an effective or meaningful way to "make a stand," without a powerfully organized social movement behind it. At best it would be making a very small statement, not substantially different from just not voting.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Which also is my main response to you Bill. I just don't see "alternative" presidential voting as an effective or meaningful way to "make a stand," without a powerfully organized social movement behind it. At best it would be making a very small statement, not substantially different from just not voting.

    True, Chris, in the short-term, but we need people to continue as some did when they became disgusted with Gore's campaign in 2000. Since then, if my understanding is correct, more people have abandoned the duopoly and become independents. We need to keep the snowball rolling. Or, to borrow an old Chinese saying, "A journey of a thousand leagues begins with the first step." Perhaps we are only somewhere along the first league, but I'm in it for the long haul. No longer making excuses for the corruption and hypocrisy in Washington. Like MLK, Jr. I too have a dream, but it won't be realized by going along with settling for riding in the back of the bus while the corporate drivers determine the route.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris:

    I have copies of all our interactions, such as your, "There's no reason to say that the different questions that produce different results are any less 'true'". I can try to find other examples of your nihilistic attitude toward poll results, but why bother? You now are taking a more reasonable position, and I'm satisfied with that. If, in the future, you challenge the poll results that Phyllis Bennis or David Sirota or I mention, then I will try to explore the reasons that I consider them relevant.

    I have not been "unresponsive to the question of why people vote differently from what [I] say they believe". I have said repeatedly on BO that I subscribe to the thesis of Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent (originally the idea of Walter Lippmann). I have also said repeatedly that 50% (more in state and local elections) of eligible voters don't vote. So no one can reasonably say that "people vote differently" from their true beliefs.

    The most important matter to me is the belief of individuals that they are isolated in their opinions, without a group of like-minded others who can join with them in effective action. This is why the issue of "the center" is so important to me; people don't know that their opinions are often shared by the majority, and so they go along with what they believe is the "center" (actually the right). I'm sure it was the same in Germany.

    You have repeatedly said that you don't see support for "personality-based" campaigns like Nader's as a good strategy, and I have repeatedly said that I don't see support for fascistic militarists like Obama or Clinton as a good strategy. Where do we go from there?

  • Byard Pidgeon (unverified)
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    Well, Obama's all we've got with even a chance of winning, so what's the discussion about? You either vote for him or not, depending on whether you're voting out of fear and desperate hope...or whether you're voting for deeply held principles and defined policy alternatives...but if that were the case, you'd vote for Nader.

    The nasty reality is that both the Obama and McCain campaigns are "personality based", while Nader's is policy based.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Well, Obama's all we've got with even a chance of winning, so what's the discussion about? You either vote for him or not, depending on whether you're voting out of fear and desperate hope...or whether you're voting for deeply held principles and defined policy alternatives...

    Except for Obama's name this is the same mass-induced point that has been made almost every four years for generations. It also helps to explain why we essentially get the same choice every four years from the Democratic/Republican duopoly - to choose the lesser evil.

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    Byard P., I don't disagree with your characterization of Obama & McCain, although I would argue that Obama also has a pretty clearly defined set of policies & that in the context of my discussions with Harry K. he seems to agree & is highly critical of those policies.

    My characterization of Nader's campaign in terms of personality is that the characteristic he tries to leverage to put across his policy ideas is his fame, which gains him a certain amount of access and attention even if he is and/or has been unfairly excluded or dismissed beyond a certain point (in addition to undemocratic ballot access politics against him).

    Even this year the MSM felt it had to acknowledge his announcement of candidacy, which is not true of Cynthia McKinney & the Greens, and won't be true of whomever the Socialists put up, or the Constitution Party -- the Libertarians may have gotten or continue to a bit of Nader-level attention because of Bob Barr's previous congressional status; I'd expect something similar if Ron Paul ran an independent write-in campaign.

    My point about that is not that Nader's been treated fairly. Rather, it illustrates simultaneously the effectiveness and limitations of Nader's reputational resource. In the context of rather prolonged and convoluted discussions between Harry K. and me, part of what I have been trying to argue is why a Nader vote, if I were just to make it as an individual, would only be a protest vote, with the same effect as not voting vis a vis the Obama and McCain. There can be a point to protest votes, I suppose, but cast as an isolated individual that point is mainly psychological IMO. I don't think it actually advances the cause of the kind of social democratic issue agenda which both Nader and McKinney in some sense represent.

    <hr/>

    Which brings me to Harry's question. Harry, I suspect we don't go anywhere from here, not until after November anyway and perhaps not at all.

    My view about what kind of politics it would take to force more progressive issues and policies into the national debate, as I've said, is one based on organizing and social movements. There is a bit of that going on around the health system and healthcare access. This is a bit around the anti-war movement (you may notice that Phyllis Bennis has worked hard to situate the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation within the anti-war movement). Probably there are others I'm not aware of.

    I see the question of how to relate such efforts to electoral politics as important but difficult, perhaps intractable. Clearly for instance it has sown distrust between you and me, perhaps with a bit of help from the blog medium. Possibly this is to a degree we wouldn't or won't be able to overcome, even if we met in another context.

    I suppose my preference would be to work on movement building and set the electoral stuff aside for a pretty long period of time -- say begin in 2015 or so to look toward the 2020 elections, if movement-building had success between now and 2015; or more likely 2019 and 2024, given the limited and fragmented organizing now.

    But I know that there are people, perhaps including you, for whom that will not make sense. So I would hope, ideally, to persuade those who think electoralism sooner (i.e. carrying on from current efforts) desirable, at least to conduct it with an eye to movement-building. And I'd hope to work out a modus vivendi in which people working in different ways didn't step on one another's toes too much, and kept lines of communication open. (I would also expect that some of the electorally oriented would be trying to build alternative parties, and some trying to work within the DP, which would make the communication while staying out of one another's way even harder.)

    But even if we managed that, and got to a point of people working on various efforts all coming together to strategize about elections with a stronger social & movement base for progressive ideas, when the rubber met the road, division over inside vs. outside the DP seems almost inevitable -- unless developments meanwhile are closer to what I would mean by fascistic than what you mean. That's not impossible but I don't think it likely.

    Unfortunately I fear that the overlapping Green 2004 & Nader 2004 debates about "safe state" strategy probably prefigure one element of what those divisions would look like, with an added element of people committed to the DP.

    From where I sit, any successful progressive movement-based electoral politics would have to involve substantial numbers of people who at present vote, work and hold office through the DP, including a chunk of people who contribute and comment at BlueOregon, and others like them, along with mobilizing many of the demobilized. (Not all of those are alienated progressives, even if you're right that that category is disproportionately represented among them, and the "establishment" polls that find that issue opinions among non-voters are distributed similarly to those among voters are wrong).

    My guess, based on our past discussions, is that you would be inclined to look primarily to alienated non-voters, because of your disgust with current Democrats. Perhaps unfairly, I see this probably as hard for you even if it were in an alternative party context, because I think you'd want a kind of admission of past error that would alienate people we need; and should the preponderance of weight be on trying to transform the DP from within, it's hard for me to imagine you participating. But perhaps I'm wrong, I don't really know you.

    The differences that I suspect exist on the point of need for involvement of present Democrats, one way or another, have a great deal to do with our differences about matters of rhetoric and persuasion, I think. But maybe I read too much into your comments here, as shaped by your perceptions of BlueOregon, and would find your communications different in face-to-face settings, or if other people were involved.

    But while it seems possible that we could work together say on a campaign for single-payer health insurance, or in an anti-war context, or on any number of issue-focused campaigns, I'm more doubtful about how we'd do when it came to electoral politics in my best-case scenario as above.

    And that best-case scenario (which might not be such in your eyes) itself seems rather remote.

    I don't see much of anyone trying to organize on that kind of broad basis, either within or outside of an electoral context (including alternative parties and candidates).

    So maybe where we go from here is crossing paths eventually in one of the fragmented issue/movement campaigns.

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    Harry, I don't understand why you use the word "nihilism" to describe this claim:

    I have copies of all our interactions, such as your, "There's no reason to say that the different questions that produce different results are any less 'true'". I can try to find other examples of your nihilistic attitude toward poll results, but why bother?

    This betrays a misunderstanding both of the meaning of nihilism as well as the meaning of public opinion polls.

    Polling does not reveal some unchanging "truth"--we've known this since Lippman (whom you cite approvingly above). Polls are a snapshot in time, and the picture can be altered by the mode of the interview, the content of the questions, the framing of the issues, etc.

    Just to take one example, you claim above that 75-80% of the public support impeachment of Bush and Cheney. I don't know what poll you are referring to, but it took me just a few seconds to find a whole series of polls that produce very, very different numbers. The number of Americans supportive of impeachment varies from a low of 34% to a high of 51%. If you examine the USA Today poll in particular, you'll see how the wording produces a much lower figure.

    This is what Chris meant, I think, when he said this poll is "true" just as the other polls are "true". Most polling analysts today avoid saying a poll is "wrong" and another is "right" (unless, of course, question wording is egregiously biased). Instead, they view variations in question wordings as demonstrations of the contours of public attitudes. That is far from nihilistic.

    I also read the Sirota piece, and I'll give you this, Obama's positions on Nafta, warrant requirements for wiretaps, and a timetable for troop withdrawal does deviate from the majority American opinion ON THESE ISSUES.

    But to presume that these issues and only these issues constitute to core of American political ideology, as Sirota does and you so, is grossly misleading.

    First, all three of these issues are arguably foreign policy issues, and for better or worse, foreign policy is an area where political elites have long deviated from the mass of the American public. The American public has never been particularly pro free trade. They have never been particularly internationalist (even opposing American entrance into World War II).

    Second, on the many, many other issues that most observers think constitute the core elements of liberal and conservative beliefs in the United States--distilled down, essentially the level of government intervention in the economy--the public has been and remains basically moderate, and Nader is far to the left.

    By the way, on Cass Sunstein and the SCOTUS, half of the Democratic delegation (22 members) votes "yea" on Roberts. However you define the "center" of the Democratic party, it seems to me the center of our elected Senatorial delegation is at least one reasonable place, and Sunstein sits right in the middle.

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    let me correct one mistatement above--two of the issues are foreign policy issues.

    The third is a constitutional issue. And, sadly, constitutional rights and freedoms are another area where decades of evidence have shown that elites are the "carriers of the creed" and the mass public endorses unconstitutional limits on freedom of speech, religion, search and seizure, etc. If we relied on public opinion during the 1950s, we'd never have had Brown vs. Board of ed, or during the 1960s, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act.

    Would you similarly criticize those politicians, Harry, for deviating from the center of American public opinion on civil rights?

    Criticizing Obama for deviating from the public on an issue of constitutional interpretation makes little sense to me. If you have a legal / constitutional argument, make it, but a public opinion argument in this context is not convincing.

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    Bill

    The best recent posting on partisan trends I can find is here: http://politicalarithmetik.blogspot.com/2006/03/partisanship-moves.html

    The trends in partisanship have been noticeable but slow--about a five to seven percent shift toward Independents since 2000, and a more recent growth in Democratic affiliation.

    So I'd have to say "no," there is not much evidence of widespread rejection of the party duopoly.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    So I'd have to say "no," there is not much evidence of widespread rejection of the party duopoly.

    And that is why we get such flawed and dishonest choices.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Paul g:

    First of all, I did not cite Lippmann (who, along with Edward Bernays, was the leading voice of the burgeoning public relations industry in the 1920's) "approvingly", but rather, ironically. Lippmann is the "liberal" who first suggested that it was the job of elites to "manufacture the consent" of the rabble (you and me). Lippmann said, "We can manufacture consent by the means of propaganda." Bernays said, "The more intelligent members of the community can drive the population into whatever they want". It’s the "essence of democracy," he said.

    Lippmann represented (and still represents) one side of the split between those who believed that the public could and should participate in democracy (the John Dewey branch) and those who scoffed at the idea, maintaining that the public was too ignorant to do any more than cast ballots once in a while (the Lippmann branch). Obviously, I'm with Dewey, and I suspect that most of the elitists who post to BO are with Lippmann.

    The reason why statements like "There's no reason to say that the different questions that produce different results are any less 'true'" are nihilistic is because they imply that direct measurement of public opinion is meaningless. There is a science of opinion measurement, which, flawed as it may be, is the most direct way that I know to understand what the public believes. I agree that, "Polls are a snapshot in time, and the picture can be altered by the mode of the interview, the content of the questions, the framing of the issues, etc.", but that is the context of the science. Mode, content, and framing are the variables, and must be taken into account in interpretation. The argument that, because these are variables, therefore poll results are meaningless, is nihilism.

    Re: "...you claim above that 75-80% of the public support impeachment of Bush and Cheney."

    No, no, no. You are in such a hurry to criticize that you fail to read accurately either what I said or what YOU said. My response was to YOUR claim that, "I don't think there is any evidence out there...showing that THE BASE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY...adopt many of the positions you describe." 75-80% of the DP have favored impeachment for a long time (One of many examples: Much of US Favors Bush/Cheney Impeachment: Poll). A 2006 Zogby poll showed: "By ideology, impeachment was supported by Progressives (90%), Libertarians (71%), Liberals (65%), and Moderates (58%)" (Americans Support Bush Impeachment for Wiretapping)), so, assuming that the base of the DP is progressive, my 75% estimate is too low.

    You further said, "However you define the "center" of the Democratic party, it seems to me the center of our elected Senatorial delegation is at least one reasonable place, and Sunstein sits right in the middle."

    But this is the heart of our disagreement. The "center" is not the midpoint between elected elites, but rather the midpoint between the membership. Of course, that presumes that you lack contempt for democracy.

    And if you can read Obama's legal advisor Sunstein's positions on blocking any prosecution of Bush for "non-egregious" crimes such as torture and unlawful surveillance, supporting John Roberts for Chief Justice, or supporting the Bush theory of inherent authority to spy on Americans without warrants as "the center", then your logic is Lippmann-esque.

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    Harry

    he reason why statements like "There's no reason to say that the different questions that produce different results are any less 'true'" are nihilistic is because they imply that direct measurement of public opinion is meaningless.

    This is an incorrect reading of what I wrote. Different survey items help us understand the contours and nuances of public opinion.

    That is what I believe Chris was arguing. He was not arguing that there is no truth, or that measurements are meaningless, but that you cannot rely on one item or one measurement as a single "true" expression of public opinion.

    I agree with you regarding the opinions of the Democratic membership on impeachment. There are many other issues on which you can examine the opinions of the Democratic membership, however, and on most of these, you will not find Senator Obama deviating much from those opinions.

    Senators are party members, too, by the way.

    Finally, I'm happy to be described as Lippman-esque. Lippman went through many transitions in his long career. The earlier, optimistic Lippman was much more willing to endorse direct public influence on governmental actions. But his experiences with World War II, and the ability of Nazi and Fascist regimes to manipulate public attitudes led him to ultimately rely much more on elites as an essential element for the stability of democratic governance.

    This is the same opinion that was reached by Ostrogorski and Michels in their studies of mass political movements. My own experience working with public opinion for two decades has led me to be skeptical of the ability of the public to exert much beyond a very gross, blunt level of control over specific policies. The public has been and remains too uninformed and uninterested in the details.

    I can point you to evidence of public control over the basic elements of public policy, but for the details, mass democracies have forever and will forever rely on elites. The kind of populist solutions proposed by Huey Long, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader are both unworkable and dangerous.

    You may find this undemocratic and elitist, and that's OK. You may not like the label, but both you and I are also elites. We live in an indirect democracy, not a direct democracy, and that system has worked pretty well for a few centurie.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris:

    I also am interested in "organizing and social movements." I don't think that electoral politics and movement organizing are mutually exclusive, though. Neither does Nader, who consistently talks about creating congressional-district-based grass roots citizens organizations.

    If you prefer McKinney, Nader says this (Ralph Nader Issues Statement on Cynthia McKinney's Nomination):

    "Although the Nader/Gonzalez and Green Party platforms have many similarities, we are not competing for votes, but instead we are allies joined in a common struggle to tap the huge and growing numbers of millions of unsatisfied voters who want to vote for something better than the lesser of two-evils. The more progressive voices and choices, the more widespread will be the definition of freedom as participation in power."

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    paul g:

    My direct quote was Chris L's, not an incorrect reading of what you wrote.

    Re: "My own experience working with public opinion for two decades has led me to be skeptical of the ability of the public to exert much beyond a very gross, blunt level of control over specific policies. The public has been and remains too uninformed and uninterested in the details... mass democracies have forever and will forever rely on elites.

    I congratulate you on your honesty. Very Kissingerian realist. But just for the hell of it:

    (1.) Our policy elites have slaughtered and tortured at levels that are estimated at 20-30 million dead, or approaching 10,000 911's, since WWII. They have created a monstrosity of a military that currently maintains "...a half million soldiers in 1,000 bases in 150 countries at great expense and to the serious endangerment of ourselves, generating resentment and hatred around the globe." (David Swanson, Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations). They have brought us to the edge of economic and environmental ruin. They are undermining the democratic freedoms that generations of grass roots activists have won.

    That's the elites, the ones you say we need in order to have a "stable" democracy (and, although I've received an elite education, I am not a policy elite).

    (2.) You can't "rely on elites" and want democracy. That's not democracy any more than establishing a farce of an "elected government" in Iraq or Afghanistan is democracy. Democracy means, at the very least, that all those whose interests are at stake are able to participate in policy making.

    (3.) The public is purposely misinformed and distracted, and those with elite educations are carefully indoctrinated. Our educational system lacks a commitment to critical thought on all levels. These things and others can and must be changed; in fact, democracy cannot exist until those changes occur.

    (4.) Ask African and native Americans if "that system has worked pretty well for a few centurie."

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    Harry,

    Paul agreed with the quote from me. I agree with him that my quote is not nihilistic. The quote does not say nor imply that poll results are meaningless. It implies that public opinion is dynamic.

    The idea of manufacturing consent also suggests as much. Opinion can be influenced and changed. But there's more to what I mean than that. On the whole, I think that people believe somewhat different things about issues more or less simultaneously, within a range, and depending on context. Sometimes life events change the range more dramatically as well.

    But take for example the issue of single payer health insurance. When asked in a healthcare /health insurance context (given that current public discourse confuses those two ideas), and focused particularly on problems with the current system, including their own, those of others that they know about, and fears of what might happen to them in the future, a lot of people will express support for the idea that the government should provided healthcare (meaning insurance) for everyone. But if you shift the context of the discussion so that it brings in the frame of "how much government intervention in the economy should there be" that Paul mentions, and treats healthcare access/ insurance as an instance of that, or if you bring in ideas of inherent government inefficiency and bureaucracy that have become powerfully established and widely accepted, people back off from that support.

    Rather than "nihilistically" thinking this means that people don't really believe anything, I think people believe more than one thing. So I don't think it works, politically, to focus on one point in the range, or to put it more temporally, at one moment in the shifting cycles of emphasis people put on what they think about things, and say, "this is what people really believe. Because if it were that simple, we'd have got national health insurance by now.

    Rather, I think we need to engage in a kind of politics of ideas that involves analyzing the variety of opinions people express in different contexts (with polls, wording is a proxy for one kind of context, although other kinds of contexts matter too). What kind of things do people think it legitimate for government to do or run, and how is providing national health insurance like them? Can the manifest inefficiencies and horrendous bureaucracy and fragmentation and incompleteness of the current private system be expressed in ways that neutralize the "inefficient bureaucratic government" trope? And so on. The point being to raise the prominence and persistence of prominence of the point in the range, or moment in the cycle, in which people support national health insurance, and reduce or extinguish the salience of the ideas introduced in counterargument.

    My ideas about this kind of thing are influenced by another person who wrote in the 1920s, from inside a (genuinely) fascist prison cell, Antonio Gramsci. Since you're better read than me on a number of things I'll guess that you have some idea about him.

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    "Nader, who consistently talks about creating congressional-district-based grass roots citizens organizations." If so, he has done very little about it in the last 12 years, as far as I can see.

    I think there's a reason for that, which is that actually running presidential electoral campaigns with limited resources does take those resources from other uses. If you've got to spend time and money and supporter effort to get on the ballot and fight undemocratic schemes to keep you off and make a public stink about being excluded from debates, that time and money and effort doesn't go into organizing. In a more subtle way, the seductions of using campaigning to try to spread ideas also may detract from organizing, more by distraction of attention than anything else I think.

    I do think that once you got a structure set up, campaigning could be used to build it and strengthen it. And maybe it's possible in theory to run a campaign that defines its task as creating organizations. But this just doesn't seem to be what Nader has done.

    Given what you say about what he says, it is occurring to me that his involvement with the Greens may have been as damaging in a way to some of his organizing ambitions as I think it was to some of theirs.

    Anyway, even if there's not an inherent and absolute mutual exclusivity between electoral politics and movement organizing, it seems to me that there's a frequent practical contradiction that needs to be understood and worked out strategically. My suggestion above is based on a prior organizing phase to doing both simultaneously. That's not the only imaginable approach, but for anything based on some kind of immediate simultaneity to be convincing, it would need to be very clear about how resources would be allocated to the organizing part and not just siphoned off for campaigning.

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    Paul,

    The systematic departure of foreign policy and international relations from public opinion is more problematic for me than for you. A good deal of what Harry cites was of course supported by mass public opinion for long stretches, so I can't simply blame it on elites ignoring what people want. Still, if you're right that there's a persistent isolationist tendency, I suppose that also is an anti-imperial one, and it also is true that numbers of wars that gained public approval once started were started over public opposition.

    The more fundamental problem for me is that the way foreign policy has been constructed, partial interests have been represented as the national interest, when they really are not, and policies that actually are harmful to the nation as a whole in the long run (as well as to foreign victims of them) have been pursued because they serve partial interests. The aggression against Iraq is only the latest example.

    This has taken on a different kind of urgency for me, because of adding a dimension, under the GW Bush administration, because Bush has asserted the doctrine that the president is above the law and the constitution due to a single element of the constitution, that of the president being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The problem with Cass Sunstein for me is not so much that he backed Roberts' appointment, as that he apparently backs a great deal of Bush's unconstitutional presidential overreach. If he represents the "center of the Democratic Party" on those matters too, the country is in grave danger, IMO. Likewise, if he has Barack Obama's ear, as the FISA vote suggests, it makes me doubt that Obama will follow through on some of his promises not just to cooperate but to lead in reversing or repudiating some of Bush's false claims and illegal practices.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris:

    I'm aware of Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony, that a culture can be ruled or dominated by one group. That's corporatism, and that's why I oppose McBama. I especially support your last paragraph to Paul.

    Kari:

    Thanks for the list. Here's a small number of comments that I culled from it regarding crimes against the Nader campaign in 2004:

    Posted by: Greg Kafoury | Nov 5, 2007 8:57:11 AM

    Bradbury's people locked the door, which was unlawful. A convention has 12 hours to get to 1,000. Some of the Nader people were locked out, and our ability to get more there was ended. My office was RN headquarters, and it was flooded with calls provoked by an email from Dem County Hdq. The phones were unusable. The Nader campaign was falsely accused of being in cahoots with the GOP, which I know for a fact to be false. Just before the 1st convention, Howard Dean was all over the air smearing us. He was interviewed by 4 or 5 of our most distinguished reporters, and said that Nader was using $ from the same corporations he used to fight to block the Ds. Not one reporter so much as asked him for evidence. There was, of course, none, since it was false. The Ds campaign against RN included the claim of fraud in signatures. Here is what happened: A tiny handful of petitioners made some dummy signatures, the campaign caufgt them and fired them all. Then, the anti-RN forces took those few petitions and paraded them before the press, claiming they were a representative sample. In fact, our disqualification rate was average. A Dem-linked law firm sent letters to our petitioners claiming that they faced prison if a signer turned out not to be registered. Some letters were handelivered ,at night. We lost some 33 petitioners over a weekend. The Dems were little better than gangsters, and if any of htem wish to debate the issue in public, simply let me know. Greg Kafoury

    Posted by: Greg Kafoury | Nov 5, 2007 9:28:20 AM

    Couple more things: Historically, about 1 in 4 Nader voters is a Republican. They are not all troglodytes, some are true conservatives, distrustful of concentrated power whether corporate or governmental. Also, despite everything, we got far more signatures than needed to get on the ballot, but Bradbury created new rules out of thin air to throw out countless signatures. It was the moral equivalent of burning ballots. The Salem judge who reviewed his conduct trashed him. The Ore Supreme Court simply said the Sec can do anything he wants if he claims it has something to do with ballot integrity. Finally, the Ds nationwide used such tactics as corrupting petition sheets, so as to cause whole sheets to be invalidated. Lawsuits were filed that had no basis in fact, and were intended simply to overwhelm Ralph's volunteer resources. We won nearly all the lawsuits, but ultimately only half the voters saw Ralph on their ballots. If the major parties can crush minor , independent candidacies and parties, what will be the source of political regeneration? By the way, now that the Ds have Congress, how are they doing on blocking the emerging police state, how are the doing on ending the War? Greg Kafoury

    "When the Marion county signatures were not released (some never were released) until literally minutes before they had to be turned over to the Secretary of State, the result was that the pages could not be numbered...That's the story. Bradbury and the flunkies he's hired need incarceration, but that's my dream. Throwing them all out of work will have to do."

    "HB 2614 clearly demonstrated that state Democrats (and Republicans) don't want anyone else at the table except for them."

    "The Nader campaign collected well over 22,000 signatures to put Ralph on the ballot. But 3,000+ were thrown out because of unwritten rules on the numbering of the petitions. Not that the signatures of Oregonians were invalid, but that the clerical numbering of them did not meet some unwritten rule. In the first ruling in favor of the Nader campaign, Judge Lipscombe did not rule on the numbering issue because his ruling on other unwritten rules put enough signatures back in the mix to qualify the candidate. Later appeals then removed those signatures. All the legal actions to prevent access were undertaken by union lawyers with interceders from the DPO."

    "...allegations of intimidation of volunteers, sabotage of subsequent petition gathering by Dems, Dem leadership's openness about their legal challenges not really being about concern for the ballot laws at all, but only about obstructing Nader's right to run and people's right to vote for him."

    "Both Dems and Repos have separately conspired to remove/inhibit people from the ballot - for decades. The fact that Mr. Nader is suing on behalf of all candidates who might not want to tow the party line of either the Dems or Repos is a just cause. You may not like that Nader appears to get in the way, however, he's actually defending the Constitution, which both the federal D&Rs are rather flippant about lately."

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