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Tilting at Windmills

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October 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE POLITICS OF RAGE....I'm still not sure how I'm going to come down on Nordhaus and Shellenberger's specific environmental arguments in Break Through, but in a way it's too bad the book is being sold as an environmental manifesto in the first place. It's really about liberal politics writ large, and they have a lot of interesting things to say about it. Here's the conclusion of Chapter 7:

In America, the political left and political right have conspired to create a culture and politics of victimization, and all the benefits of resentment and cynicism have accrued to the right. That's because resentment and apocalypse are weapons that can be used only to advance a politics of resentment and apocalypse. They are the weapons of the reactionary and the conservative — of people who fear and resist the future. Just as environmentalists believe they can create a great ecological politics out of apocalypse, liberals believe they can create a great progressive politics out of resentment; they cannot. Grievance and victimization make us smaller and less generous and can thus serve only reactionaries and conservatives.

Granted, this makes more sense if you've read the rest of Chapter 7 first, but it's still something that ought to be etched onto every liberal forehead in the country: we can't beat conservatives at their own game. Appeals to besiegement and rage make people more sympathetic to conservatism — "smaller and less generous" — no matter what words happen to be coming out of our mouths at the time.

I forget this too often. We all forget it too often. We shouldn't.

Kevin Drum 4:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (75)

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Comments

Nice.

Posted by: Scott Herbst on October 10, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

The real achievement of the right is not so much a culture of victimization and resentment, but in which liberalism--and liberals--are contemptible. That ethic has been pushed in such a tactical, persistent concerted way, that it is now part of common conception that liberals are weak, unmanly, hypocritical, condescending elitists, that feel that they know better than the "common man."

Not only has this worked (I know few people who will declare themselves unapolegetically as "liberal"), but the resentments you described are secondary to this fundamental contempt.

One may think of conservatives as heartless or deluded, but there is no culture-wide consensus of contempt extended in their direction.

That, I believe, is what we really have to address.

Posted by: Osama Von Mcintyre on October 10, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I just don't buy the argument.

Should we feel grievance and resentment that, say, the rich are getting vastly richer while everyone else is stuck in the mire?

I think so. And if we don't feel grievance and resentment, I don't see how we get out of this particular mess.

Posted by: frankly0 on October 10, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatism doesn't have "weapons". It has a philosophy and policies that flow from that philosophy. Liberalism, which is just a cabal of special interests, is the movement in need of weapons.

Posted by: Al on October 10, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Should we feel grievance and resentment that, say, the rich are getting vastly richer while everyone else is stuck in the mire?

I think the point is that righteous disgust and outrage would be more productive, because it would diminish us less. Resentment always undermines liberalism.

Posted by: latts on October 10, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget to tell Paul Krugman.

...hypocritical, condescending elitists, that feel that they know better than the "common man."

Yeah, I don't see any of that on this comment board.

Posted by: harry on October 10, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Your kidding Kevin. People decide on emotion. Anger and resentment can drive people to do something. Anger at social injustice has driven politics forever.

Just because a large number of US liberals choose not to ever get angry about almost anything, doesn't mean anger doesn't work.

To me this reads as yet another stupid excuse for progressives not to fight. To keep the gunpowder dry for some never to be reached Rubicon.

And if you can't get people angry for destroying people's water and air - what the heck can you get people angry about?

Anger can be power - the Clash.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on October 10, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

"In America, the political left and political right have conspired to create a culture and politics of victimization"

Puleeze. I am so sick of this "centrist" argument that the Right and Left are equally bad. I dare say Kevin wants a more lucrative job on TV and is willing to sell us all off for a few shekels.

So name them, Kevin: Who on "the left" is in this conspiracy? Who exactly balances off Limbaugh, Coulter, Dobson?

No more Washington Monthly for this faithful blog reader - there are so many better sites than this one.

Posted by: esaund on October 10, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Iraqis are becoming smaller every day.

Posted by: Brojo on October 10, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

So name them, Kevin: Who on "the left" is in this conspiracy? Who exactly balances off Limbaugh, Coulter, Dobson?

Well, you could start with Keith Olbermann, Mouth-Foamer Extraordinaire. Some politicians come to mind who have a lot more going in the stridency department than the brain department. Ted Kennedy, for one.

Posted by: harry on October 10, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, though, what reaction other than besiegement and rage should we be feeling at this point? In the past 10 years, we've seen a Democratic president impeached over an extramarital affair, we've seen the Supreme Court hopelessly demean itself by stealing an election, we've gone to war over false pretenses, we've been attacked by terrorists when our government could have done something to prevent it, and we've seen our government torture people--and that's just off the top off my head.

Rage is a natural byproduct of that, Kev. It's not feigned, it's real. I realize it's not exactly productive, that we've been unnecessarily radicalized, but there it is.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on October 10, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

we can't beat conservatives at their own game.

The fuck we cant. If a conservative calls me weak, I punch 'em in the mouth. May be right, may be wrong...but it sure is fun!

Posted by: elmo on October 10, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

As a Chicano from the Sonoran Desert, permit to me share a story that never made it into the Anglo history books or into the political journals of the 1970s. When Jimmy Carter decided to run for the presidency (1974), he beseeched the then Arizona Governor, Raul Castro, for his support and advocacy. (And for the historian-less among us, Governor Castro had years earlier served as our nation's Ambassdor to El Salvador and Bolivia. He was in Bolivia when Che Guevara was caught and killed.)

And so, throughout Carter's campaign, he travelled on Castro's jet, the "Pinata One", and in the company of Governor Castro and Coretta Scott King. Thus, the National Agenda for Human Rights, was incubated and brought forth into the political sunlight.

Now, the United States resides in the midst of an Indigenous Hemisphere, and it would be kindness at its best, if the USA was kind to our fellow citizens and to the citizens of this hemisphere, should the Democrats seize on the moment again, and despite Bush's Choice of War, to advocate for another Human Rights Agenda. And in a manner that demonstrates both kinship and kindred spirit, would go a long ways to lessening the agendas of both wings of the American political system. Thus, you now recognize a Moderate when you see this posting.

As such, and as a Chicano, I am subjected to the daily and withering fire from both the Conservatives and the Progessives to advocate their political solutions, and yet, getting Conservatives and Progessives to advocate solutions respectful to Human Rights, is at best, difficult.

Perhaps, the 70 Democratics members of the House, in their opposition to additional funding for the Iraq War, is a possible first step?

In any event, America's Anglos got it wrong on War and this logic imputes the rationality that Anglos will also get Peace wrong too. Thus, I am suggesting a new template, Human Rights, and which will keep everyone balanced on what's needed and what can be accomplished with tad of Reason embedded in Common Sense.

And I am saddened to say, I am supremely tired of "being pitched" Crappola or for what passes as such.

Respectfully Submitted.

Jaango

Posted by: Jaango on October 10, 2007 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

For starters, I think we need a more granular definition of "rage" because it's not inherently bad.

For example, if someone were to hurt my son, I would go into a rage of historical proportions.

But if I used that rage to, say, kill that person and their family, it'd be bad (unless in self defense).

And that's something to consider -- it's perfectly fine, even normal, to be outraged about certain things. But the way in which the left expresses that outrage doesn't work because: a.) they try to temper it; b.) they're always late with it.

The right, on the other hand, has this down to a science -- no one will ever beat the right at its ability to get all in a tizzy over anything, even if they did the exact same thing, only ten times worse, just ten seconds ago.

What the left needs to do - and the candidates are doing a good job of it for the most part, IMHO -- is to show a controlled rage at real issues, thus proving that we can appeal to the emotional side of voters. Like it or not, that's an important aspect that's been lost to the left, and one that showed it could work in 2006 (when voter rage led to a sweep).

But we can't stop there, as we often do.

That HAS to be immediately followed by a solution to the problem. This is where the left can win since all the right does is talk about their outrages without actually fixing the underlying issue. This allows the left to frame the debate while showing it is the side of action, all the while appealing to emotion.

Again, appeal to the resentment and rage and anger, show some of those things, but then show a maturity that proves the problem that caused the resentment and rage and anger can be fixed.

Okay ... hope that wasn't too long and made some sense. It's late and I need more coffee.

Posted by: Mark D on October 10, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think the point is that righteous disgust and outrage would be more productive, because it would diminish us less. Resentment always undermines liberalism.

Huh? There's no such thing as morally deserved resentment?

If all they're arguing is that unjust resentment only fuels right wing causes, well, I won't disagree, but their claim then starts to look like a tautology, given that they appear to assume the right wing is always unjust anyway.

Posted by: frankly0 on October 10, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

I don't agree. I think what really makes it different is how much power conservatives have now. I think we can't get things really moving if, for one thing, people aren't really energized, and that takes outrage. In the situation we're in, feeling like cooperating (or whatever the oppostie of outrage is) just makes one more prone and more ready to give the other side one more chance and the benefit of the doubt, and not to think critically about their arguments all the time. I think the problem is our culture keeps people so comfortable and occupied now, with entartainment being the way it is, that it's really hard for too many of us to see what's going on and to care about how bad it is. Even if Bush's policies are really hurting us (if we're not safely rich) being bled doesn't mind us as long as it's done by a thousand needle pricks instead of one big wound.

I'll feel a lot more comfortable when a lot more people start getting outraged.

Posted by: Swan on October 10, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK
So name them, Kevin: Who on "the left" is in this conspiracy? Who exactly balances off Limbaugh, Coulter, Dobson?

What's the matter, somerandomguy892 at the DailyKos not good enough for you?

/snark

Oh, and before someone brings up Olberman, maybe someone can tell me: When has he suggested rounding up anyone with brown skin and locking them in camps indefinitely? (Malkin)

When has he suggested bombing Fox News headquarters, or mocked women whose husbands died on 9/11? (Coulter)

When has he mocked a person with Parkinson's, or called for drug abusers to suffer stiffer penalties while being a drug abuser himself? (Rush)

When has he sexually harassed a co-worker? (O'Reilly)

When has he claimed God for his own? (Dobson)

Until he does those things, there is no comparison.

Posted by: Mark D on October 10, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I do not buy it either. As far as I can tell, people who should be angry as hell at the GOP have been convinced that they should be angry as hell at the liberals because the liberals are the smart ones, who went to college, did well, marries good looking people, and then had the audacity to suggest that the government could do more to help the common man. The reason this happens is precisely because the "common man" is how shall I put this--common. In the past, liberals were able to convince the commoners that the rich, warmongering capitalists did not have the common mans interests at heart. Then the rich, warmongering capitalists took over the media and convinced the commoners that the reason their lives sucked was because of the liberals and there "communist, nanny state, mentality". Like every time there is an e-coli outbreak, that is another reason why we should have less government regulation because the nanny state gives a false sense of security or some such nonsense. But by definition these folks are gullible and they buy into it. Anger and resentment can work on the liberal side (and has in the past), but the message has to be simple and repeated 24/7 or else it does not get through.

Posted by: terry on October 10, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

A politics of being p.o.'d can definitely be negative and can be perverted, but when you have a massive oppressor to struggle against, you don't get out of it just by acting 'ho-hum' about it. The conservatives are winning on every angle they can right now, and even if we get a Democratic president next, the next thing for us all to be thinking about is how to keep the conservatives from continuing in the future what they did over the past eight years- and I don't think a hell of a lot of us are even at the point of recognizing that that's something we need to do after we win the WH.

Posted by: Swan on October 10, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

The political right fosters resentment and hysteria among its base. The "political left" - that is, the Democratic Party - abandoning its base in the shrinking union movement, first tried to establish a new base premised on minority and women's issues, and when that failed abandoned the idea of a base entirely. That's what Clintonism is - an effort to build an election-winning machine designed to function without a base and without an ideology. There is no politics of resentment in the modern Democratic party. There is only a politics of accomodation.

Yes, there's a tiny element on the left -- outside the Democratic party - that tries to foster a politics of resentment, but these people are irrelevant and almost entirely excluded from the political discourse. Their main function in political life is provide a target for the right to demonize. The politics of resentment on the right, by contrast, is the mainstream Republican party line, broadcast daily into our homes and carried in with the newspaper.

So this sort of moral equivalence is not very helpful or believable, and it's hard to believe it's intended in good faith.

Posted by: Bloix on October 10, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Amen to OVM. As a member of various environmental and liberal groups I have not seen all that much in the way of resentment and apocalytical politics. Much of the what I read points to various problems and suggests in rational and measured ways that we should do something about such problems. The global climate change issue is an example. At the substantive level environmentalists are supported by a broad consensus of scientists in suggesting that we may be irreversably changing the planetary ecology, and that a significant cause is overconsumption and waste associated with developed economies. This is not fringe science - but while there may be some fringe environmentalist groups that heat up the rhetoric, most are simply attempting to achieve incremental change in lowering emissions, increasing mileage, and increasing incentives for alternative energy utilization. Is that to be simply equated with revelation based apocalytic rhetoric and policies that discount losses of human life in the belief that the end is near. I would think that equating these viewpoints reflects too well what has happened to the MSM, as it has grown more and more into a "he says/she says" stenographic exercise that eschews examining underlying sources of events in favor of ballpark announcing. I haven't read the book at this point, so I do not claim to be familiar with what sorts of evidence Nordhaus and Shellenberger use to back up their claims on environmentalist guilt trips, but my experience has been that most of the groups and even the politicians that I have seen that have made some effort to deal with environmental issues, have not done this in a way that can be considered a mimicry of right wing appeals to fear based faith and resentment, and have had a far greater degree of rational justification for the claims that they have made.

Posted by: mb on October 10, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, one time out of ten Kevin has to whiff one, it seems.

What progressive reform hasn't been built on a platform of anger at the status quo? Unions? The pure food and drug act? Civil rights?

Dang, after jumping at Sullivan's quote-mine earlier and stubbing his toe you'd think he'd be a a bit more careful.

Posted by: idlemind on October 10, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it. I wish an example had been provided so I could figure out what Nordhaus and Shellenberger/Drum were talking about. Must be liberal code of some sort.

Posted by: Luther on October 10, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Harry:

So tell me all the outrageous things Ted Kennedy has said over the years. Did he mock chronically ill people? Did he say the 911 survivors relished in the deaths of their husbands? Did he smear a child?

Behind every other guy like you who reflexively disses Ted Kennedy, I see a kid who has never been to the dentist.

Posted by: esaund on October 10, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Who gives a fuck? All we do is blog anyway.

Posted by: cazart on October 10, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

The global climate change issue is an example.

That is funny. The moderate VP Gore is being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize for his publicizing global warming and one of the most liberal journalist/editorialists, Alexander Cockburn, calls global warming alarmists 'greenhousers.'

Conservatives consider moderates like Mr. Gore playing the politics of victimhood, while they completely ignore a real radical liberal's plea for rationality. Moderates and liberals ignore Mr. Cockburn, too, while extolling the virtues of Mr. Gore.

Posted by: Brojo on October 10, 2007 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Resentment and rage are not the same thing.

The problem with Democrats in Congress --- which is only slowly starting to change --- has been a lack of commitment to the ideals of Democrats. A lack of a sense of outrage, an unwillingness to rock the boat, a triangulation of every issue. When the conservatives are shouting angrily in our face, and all we do is play a defensive game, we have no chance of winning. The fact that all of the outrages have been committed on their side requires a willingness to speak up about those outrages, to show some anger. If enough people had been angry in 2000 at Republican cheating Gore would still be in the White House today.

Posted by: catherineD on October 10, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK
Grievance and victimization make us smaller and less generous and can thus serve only reactionaries and conservatives.

This is a nice, pat theory that doesn't seem to have much contact with actual facts; I'd be hard pressed to come up with a successful political movement that advanced liberal policy objectives and ideals in the history of the universe that did not, in its rhetoric, make frequent mention of the victimization of some broad class at the hands of narrow interest, that did not evoke rage. Ditto with effective conservative movements, for that matter. Now, there is a difference in that conservative movements typically, as the next step, ask for some narrow elite to be given power for the purpose of addressing the situation, while liberal movements seek to directly empower the group harmed.

But to say that evoking rage and pointing to victimization can only benefit the political Right seems an unsupportable argument, historically.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 10, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Huh. And here I thought I was a liberal because I believed that cooperation was a more powerful and effective force for improving human lives than competition, and that the victimization required by rightwing ideology was unnecessary and counterproductive, though frequently natural.

I'm so glad these great thinkers are around to explain myself and our movement in such clarity - I am so grateful to know I'm just resentful for some reason.

The "break through" argument sounds too close to the stupid "liberals are condescending to X, thats why X would rather be republican" argument to be a coincidence.

Posted by: Mysticdog on October 10, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK
Appeals to besiegement and rage make people more sympathetic to conservatism — "smaller and less generous" — no matter what words happen to be coming out of our mouths at the time.

I forget this too often.

I dealt with the accuracy of the first premise in my last post on the thread, but this line is a real "WTF?" line. I mean, when? Seems to me you could be more aptly accused of being devoid of even justifiable indignation than of being prone to make appeals to rage.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 10, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Good issue for discussion. I'm with Swan in thinking that if the Dems can win the presidential election, then there will be a real battle as the raging right tries to destroy the ruling coalition. With Dems in power, liberals will be better positioned to win on more issues if the national discourse calms down, and the raging parties are marginalized.

The way things have been going for the last 7 years, rage on the left has been justified and channeled rather constructively for the most part, in my opinion. If Dems win Congress and the Presidency, we liberals will be wise to focus our energy on the problems and the solutions, and try to minimize the overall rage level. Clinton was good at this in an "I feel your pain" sort of way, accompanied by practical compromise...

Posted by: Detroit Dan on October 10, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

That the best examples harry/tbrosz can come up with are Keith Olbermann and Ted Kennedy (snerk!) pretty much proves our point. Brosz, you're playing for our side now?

Posted by: shortstop on October 10, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

But to say that evoking rage and pointing to victimization can only benefit the political Right seems an unsupportable argument, historically.

Rage, victimization and hate were very useful to Stalin and Mao, among others. There just isn't any useful example of where those traits were used as the engine for any real democratic progressive change, such as the New Deal or the Civil Rights Movement. If you're Ali, you don't go toe-to-toe with Liston or Foreman and attempt to slug it out.

Posted by: Steve Smith on October 10, 2007 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

The liberals can not get worked up because the liberal leaders do not generally have the fire in the belly as they do not belong to the economic class that liberalism is supposed to serve.

Add to this the fact that as a consequence of historical events any liberal leader who speaks with passion is easily castigated as a socialist/communist and the characterization is prone to stick regardless of the facts.

Posted by: gregor on October 10, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK
Well, you could start with Keith Olbermann, .... harry on October 10, 2007 at 5:23 PM
How dare he, the dastardly fiend, quote Republican statements! Posted by: Mike on October 10, 2007 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

So, does evolution favor the reactionary?

Does the right rule using the politics of rage? Is it ascendant? Is it permanent? Can you ever see Joe Wilson and Sean Hannity united in a cause?

Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck enjoy a brief moment of evolutionary superiority because more people find them entertaining, or at least preferable to hearing Leonardo DiCaprio or a Kennedy kid or Al Gore lecture them about their truck.

"Kill it, **** it or eat it," go the redneck bumper stickers. Brittany leads at 11, and the people who like their answers short and sweet with no explanation and no fine print get all the news they need from Bill and Sean.

Progressives flourished as their efforts to mobilize populations improved. The other side knows how to mobilize, too. They've trained a population to fatten itself on heat-em-up meals that were practically embalmed to give them shelf life. Teaching them to surrender their ability to self-govern is no big leap.

Like a cow growing fatter and sicker daily on a feedlot diet, Mr. Reactionary daily gobbles his diet of empty calories, stray toxins and fat like there's no tomorrow.

And he votes the same way.

Posted by: elnuestros on October 10, 2007 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop at 6:41

Ya know - I used to *sigh* deeply and say "I miss tbrosz." But that feeling began to lessen somewhat, and now that you mention it, that feeling began to alleviate about the time harry and the cast and crew of voices in his head began posting...

Coinky-dink?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on October 10, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Huh? There's no such thing as morally deserved resentment?

I didn't say that. There are some really subtle distinctions in the words we're discussing, even though their dictionary definitions overlap considerably (my favorite OT example is the trivialization of the word 'choice' in abortion politics, which is problematic because 'decision' is a more accurate-- but less flexible-- word). Here's what I perceive as the subtextual meanings of some of these terms:

rage- not just anger, but uncontrolled, possibly undirected anger; violent feelings; beyond reason

resentment- a simmering anger, identified with a lack of negotiating power or means of expression; connotes weakness and bitter resignation

outrage- righteous anger; fury at injustices, principled opposition, often from a poition of strength (ex: an advocate instead of a victim, or at least someone who refuses to be a victim)

All my interpretations are debatable, of course, but one of the things that has most struck me in the past several years is how much more closely the right studies language than our more intellectual types seem to. That's really why their framing succeeds so well-- their 'politics of resentment' reinforces the notions of minorities or interest groups being inferior, and their 'Bush hatred' accusations attempt to neutralize the contempt with which many of us regard him, by placing him above the anger directed at him (personally, I make a point of preferring 'loathe' or 'despise' as descriptors of my feelings about the man). My take on the cited passage is that liberalism has to stem from genuine confidence in our principles-- that's why we're not supposed to be threatened by progress, after all-- and we need to project that confidence even in the face of defeat, including in our use of language. IMNSHO, that's a no-brainer.

Anyway, that's my position and I'm stickin' to it. YMMV, of course.

Posted by: latts on October 10, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK
Rage, victimization and hate were very useful to Stalin and Mao, among others.

One of these things was not part of the discussion prior to your interjecting it.

There just isn't any useful example of where those traits were used as the engine for any real democratic progressive change, such as the New Deal or the Civil Rights Movement.

Both rage and pointing to the victimization of a broad group were used to sell both the New Deal and Civil Rights. Hate was not, but hate is something you lumped with the others that was not previously part of the discussion.

I mean, can you honestly say that someone who describes the present situation thus:

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; and the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

and places the responsibility for it thus:

And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

is not pointing to a broad group of people being victimized by another, very specific, group? I think not. The difference is not that liberals do not evoke rage and victimization, the difference is that liberals propose solutions which address the problem rather than simple expiatory retaliation, as thus:

Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation is asking for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our great natural resources.
Hand in hand with that we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land. Yes, the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, the State, and the local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities that have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped by merely talking about it. We must act. We must act quickly.

And finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

These, my friends, are the lines of attack. [...]


Posted by: cmdicely on October 10, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,

I usually love what Alexander Cockburn has to say, but on the issue of global warming either he or I am off-track. He wrote an article a couple months ago saying that Gore was nothing but a shill for the nuclear power industry. That sounds crazy to me, especially since I heard Gore tell Congress in testimony to Congress on global warming that he didn't view nuclear power as a particularly good option He did allow that it could play a part but didn't sound overly enthusiastic. So where did Cockburn get his 'shill' info from? I sent off an e-mail to him asking for info but never got a response.
Also, I don't quite get your description of Cockburn as a 'rationalist' in this case. Can you explain? I must be missing part of the story.

Posted by: nepeta on October 10, 2007 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, cmdicely. Oh, to have a President who speaks so truthfully and so eloquently today...

Posted by: nepeta on October 10, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Even as a political rather than environmental tract, it's still what I called it on Salon:

great proof of what Exxon-Mobil pocket change buys.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on October 10, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Getting back to N. and S.'s specific strategy against global warming: it bears a striking resemblance to that advocated by computer expert and liberal SF writer Charles Stross last January -- which I find very hard to disagree with: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/01/why_i_am_not_an_environmentali.html .

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on October 10, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Cockburn "The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind's sinful contribution. Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments."

This is a laugh. It seems more of a rant than a serious statement in the face of the fact that there is a pretty broad consensus in the scientific community that climate change is occurring and a significant part of it is human induced. Cockburn points to a single scientist he has found to support a position is entirely consistent Sen. Inhofe's position that GCC is a hoax, showing that those on opposite fringes often have a lot in common, but his position is certainly not the position of the vast majority of scientists that have studied the phenomenon. It is rather reminiscent of those who argue that we can not provide conclusive proof that fossils etc., prove evolution, and since, evolution can not be absolutely proved without models and theories, it should be considered just another theory and accorded no more credibility than intelligent design and creationism. And they then point to gaps and flaws in the theory to support ideologically based views.

Posted by: mb on October 10, 2007 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of the comments on this post conflate two issues (and there are so many that I haven't read the last couple of dozen or so).

The first issue is whether one should feel outraged or angry. Of course, yes.

The second issue is whether the best political platform is built around that sense of outrange and anger. The answer is: No.

KD is right. Sucessful liberal politics has (almost always) been built around hopefulness and inclusiveness. (I say "almost" because TR did rail against "malefactors of great wealth," and FDR and Harry Truman said things that would be considered "unhinged" by modern conservatives.) FDR was about hope. Hubert Humphrey (the greatest American to lose the presidency, maybe after Al Gore, but ahead of A. Stevenson) was not for nothing the "Happy Worrier."

Resentment is what builds a facist or Leninist politics. Oh, and that's a good reason to vote for a certain senator for Illinois.

Posted by: Matt on October 10, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, to quote Kevin. "Warrior" not "worrier."

Posted by: Matt on October 10, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

If you're Ali, you don't go toe-to-toe with Liston or Foreman and attempt to slug it out.

No, but you fight back, and take a few punches along the way. No matter what the cost...

Posted by: elmo on October 10, 2007 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

But like Matt said...with a smill on your face!

Posted by: elmo on October 10, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

dammit, I meant "smile" on your face

Posted by: elmo on October 10, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

I meant Cockburn's argument was rational. That does not mean correct or persuasive, but that it used a rational skepticism to question global warming's consequences. Consequences he argues are being exaggerated by some in order to use state power to transfer wealth from the public to large corporations.

The framing of this argument with rage and resentment should be disputed. It is an attempt to make the opposition to W. Bush's policies and actions personal and irrational, when in fact moral, ethical and humanist reasons are why so many oppose the presidency of W. Bush. latts is correct, principles are the basis of discontent.

Posted by: Brojo on October 10, 2007 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

mb,

Good comments. I just saw that Brojo included a link to a Cockburn piece on GW. My unprofessional reading of the graph Cockburn cites is that neither Cockburn or his scientist friend have taken into account the fact that CO2 stays around in the upper atmosphere for ~ 30 years. Obviously a decrease in CO2 output during 1929-1930 (Depression) would not be noticeable in the early 30's because the steady increase during the previous 50 years would still be reflected in the measurement, nor would it be noticeable later because by that time a drop of 30% in 1930 CO2 pollution would be dwarved by much greater CO2 output in the 1940's. Perhaps Cockburn's love of old cars and cross-country car trips is affecting his judgment.

Posted by: nepeta on October 10, 2007 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,

I don't see Cockburn's argument as being rational at all. It's in fact very Republican-like in that it appears to be rational on its face but is in fact based on faulty logic, disputed 'facts' and personal bias. Btw, you're one of my favorite commenters here. Am I misunderstanding you? Are you saying that liberals should be paying attention to Cockburn on the topic of global warming?

Posted by: nepeta on October 10, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

If people don't have something to get into politics for, they don't have something to get into politics for. Right now, there are legions of people in the states out west and in the south who have their own view of what the world and our country should be like. These people are going to have children and teach them to be the same way. These people get energized and angry and interested in politics over a couple issues, like abortion and euthanasia. Many of them asshole believe in things like 7-day creationism and angels. They think they have a total right to totally exclude you from politics because of issues like abortion and euthanasia, but once they get control of government, they will also apply their own unbalanced views to other policy issues, like foreign policy and and medical care and social security. These people are going to go to Universities and get degrees, and go to Washington and work in federal agencies. Along the way they will damn people like you and me for "wanting to impose our views" on others, meanwhile never questioning that they are seeking to do that themselves and whether their own across-the-board imposition is a dangerous thing for society. I would like to know what liberals of today are thinking we are going to do to counter the influence of these hordes of people. I would like to know where the working-class people of tommorrow who are interested in reading The Nation and The New York Times are going to come from, because right now I think their numbers are dwindling and it doesn't seem like any politicized liberals are doing anything to replenish them, or are even comfortable with doing anything to replenish them. And I am not talking about "working class" people who are really just old-money rich kids, off on a Richard Cory-esque fantasy working at a dockyard or something for 10 years in-between getting their first and second Phd. I am talking about real working-class and lower middle class people who grew up with working class and lower class people, actually know those kinds of people, actually talk to them, and do not misinterpret everything they say or fail to understand them. It seems more to me like highly poiliticized upper-class liberals, if I understand them correctly from having met them, could not care less about talking to people different than them.

Posted by: Swan on October 10, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote:

Many of them asshole believe in things like 7-day creationism and angels.

Totally disregard the word "asshole" there. I don't know how that got in there-- I must have deleted a setence I was writing and forgot to get that word.

Posted by: Swan on October 10, 2007 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

And I am not talking about "working class" people who are really just old-money rich kids, off on a Richard Cory-esque fantasy working at a dockyard or something for 10 years in-between getting their first and second Phd.

I hope a lot of rich people do not read this sentence and get the idea that this would be something fun to do. An even better idea would be to just get to know lower class people open to being liberals without trying to pass yourself off to them as just like them when you're not, and without putting a gloss over everything they say when you're getting to know the fisrt lower class people you've ever really gotten to know and don't even have any kind of an informed background from which to make those assumptions.

Posted by: Swan on October 10, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for the compliment. I am only saying Cockburn's argument is rational. Yours is rational, too. What I take from Cockburn's opinion is skepticism. The melting ice caps and drowning polar bears concern me and I am reducing my carbon output if I can. The technocrats recommend the Kyoto Protocol, I think that is probably the best course for public policy.


Posted by: Brojo on October 10, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

My brain is spinning. I see all these opinions & various definitions of a few words, but little of what I have seen here makes sense because the level of confusion & various definitions just gets worse.

Rage & indignation are great to bring people to the point of action, whether the right or the left or whatever. Acting while in that state of emotional turmoil usually brings about bad results. Olberman is good on expressing his rage & indignation, But his state of mind is calm & clear when he launches his attack, using logic & clear thinking. Rush & O'Reilly, on the other hand, seem to go off half cocked often, & in the process keep losing credibility with all but their die hard, knee jerk fans. They attack the messenger while Olberman attacks the message. 'How DARE you, Mr. Bush, tell me...' - rather than, 'You are a dipshit fascist, Mr. Bush"

Self righteousness is the arena for the right wing; it doesn't work for the left or middle. I believe this is what Kevin may have been referring to:
================================================
we can't beat conservatives at their own game. Appeals to besiegement and rage make people more sympathetic to conservatism — "smaller and less generous" — no matter what words happen to be coming out of our mouths at the time.

I forget this too often. We all forget it too often. We shouldn't.
================================================
Speaking for myself, I sometimes get really pissed over something I read, think,'That miserable SOB!', and start typing my self-righteous rebuttal by attacking the messenger. That is playing the right wing game with their rules. Since my aim is to win hearts & minds, I need to cool off & work out a reasonable response - solution, even, if I see one - so those I would try to convince don't see me as the SOB. My job is to attack the message & offer an alternative while being larger & more generous. And sometimes I forget...

Posted by: bob in fl on October 11, 2007 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

I almost - no - I forgot something. Kudos to cmdicely for that speech which helps clarify what we are talking about. Unfortunately, we are in a position of having to get our viewpoints across today in a much shorter form because of the short attention spans of today's audience. Still, appeals to logic will work with short attention spans. People will dig a little more if we can find a way to get their attention with a short message first.

Posted by: bob in fl on October 11, 2007 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Nepeta,

Cockburn doesn't strike me as all that rational either, in tone or substance. I think you're right about the flaw with the graph Cockburn cites, and he and his pet scientist also get it wrong on the role of water vapor in climate change. They say that the impact of GHGs compared to water vapor is like a fart in a hurricane. The IPCC which has evaluated the research of hundreds of peer reviewed papers notes that the consensus of researchers is that the contribution of water vapor to anthropogenic warming is assumed to be around 50%, with other GHGs between 20 and 40 percent - and there is a positive feedback effect between GHGs and WV - the more GHGs put in the atmosphere, the more WV there is likely to be in the troposphere to magnify the greenhouse effect.

It seems to me that Cockburn is rational (and skeptical) in only the most narrow sense of the term. I guess if a person believes they can fly, it is entirely rational to jump out of a tenth story window. But the matter of how justified that belief is will probably be pretty relevant to that person's continued health. The point of the scientific endeavor (at least ideally) is to put stuff on the table for examination and discussion in the attempt to find out what's really going on, or to make a sensible estimate. Cockburn and the repubs sure ain't doing that when they let ideology select their facts.

Posted by: mb on October 11, 2007 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

"Grievance and victimization make us smaller and less generous and can thus serve only reactionaries and conservatives."

Guess that puts the Obama message in a frame that makes sense for liberal Democrats, eh?

Posted by: Nisan Chavkin on October 11, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum is an idiot who wants to fight our enemies with one hand tied behind his back, because thats the only way he won't feel 'icky' about being a leftist.

Liberalism is a dead political philosophy. There is no future for a leftist movement that believes in unrestrained free trade. There is no future in a political movement that turns the other cheek and refuses to fight. Liberals are the reason why the left has suffered so much these last two decades. They are perceived as weak because they are very personally weak people. They do not stand and they do not fight, because they think to do so is immoral. How can you be shocked that everyone on both the left and the right are disgusted by you?

Posted by: Soullite on October 11, 2007 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Appeals to besiegement and rage make people more sympathetic to conservatism"

Um, not if the appeals are to besiegement conducted by conservatives and rage toward conservatives for their outrageous actions. I don't know what Nordhaus and Shellenberger's argument is but if, as Kevin says, its an argument about liberalism writ large that says that attacks on conservatives are doomed to failure as some kind of natural law then I call bullshit.

There are 3 reasons liberalism is in retreat:

1)the conservatives have been allowed to get away with outrageous lies

2) the media is biased against liberals (as is catalogued on 100 blogs every day)

3) our liberal "leaders" are a bunch of pussies who don't fight back

But there is no natural law dictating that it has to be that way and to argue acceptance of those as necessary conditions is simply to favor capitulation.

Stand up and fight back liberals! You have public opinion on your side on almost every single policy question. We have the numbers. We just have to translate those numbers into democratic decisions.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on October 11, 2007 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

People like Kevin have simply submitted to their conservative overlords. They have bought the right wing propaganda about "angry" liberals who"hate" Bush and are "deranged". What a load of crap.

There is such a thing as "righteous indignation". Notice the word "righteous".

Some people pretend they have some kind of moral superiority if they NEVER get angry or mad. But anger is an appropriate emotion under the right circumstances. If you watch the Nazis slaughtering Jews and don't get angry there is something wrong with you. You with me? OK, we've established the principle.

What's more, if you watch George Bush carry out a WMD hoax on the American people and then launch a war based on that hoax that kills as many as 1,000,000 Iraqis and drives 2,000,000 more out of their own country as refugees and you don't get angry about it, there is something wrong with YOU, not the people who have the proper emotional response to such an outrage.

Of course we have to learn from Aristotle and be angry to the right degree toward the right people for the right reasons. But that really goes without saying. People like Kevin are too beaten down to get angry about anything.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on October 11, 2007 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely said, "Seems to me you could be more aptly accused of being devoid of even justifiable indignation than of being prone to make appeals to rage."

Exactly. There is important tactical value in righteous indignation (notice the word "righteous" please). You lose credibility when you claim the other side has committed outrageous acts but you are not outraged.

When the Democrats repeatedly capitulate to the Republicans and compromise on matters of principle it shows that they don't really believe the principles they are appealing to.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on October 11, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

"we can't beat conservatives at their own game"

Sure you can, just don't stand idly by as they hurl bullshit. Hit back harder.

Posted by: Dave in ME on October 11, 2007 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK
... "but one of the things that has most struck me in the past several years is how much more closely the right studies language than our more intellectual types seem to. That's really why their framing succeeds so well ... " --latts on October 10, 2007 at 7:16 PM

As a student of language, I couldn't agree more.

The right has done a masterful job of boiling down their message into short sound bites and then getting those bites broadcast immediately and thoroughly.

The left, however, is STILL so damn far behind on this. Part of it is, I think, our tendency to do nuance and detailed policy, thus making a clear, concise message more difficult to get across.

The key is to NOT do what the right does too often -- throw out a bunch of meaningless slogans that are, in reality, flat-out lies.

It is, however, to do what they do well -- get that message out quickly, and make it memorable.

Not sure why we still can't do that (other than the fact the media is NOT actually liberal, or the fact that you hardly ever see a true liberal on the Sunday teevee shows, or the fact that you hardly ever see a truly liberal op-ed page, or ... well, you get the idea).

Posted by: Mark D on October 11, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

With regard to global warming, "apocalyptic fear-mongering" is entirely justified by the facts.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 11, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Last year over 700,000 people were arrested for simple possession of marijuana. These people were not practicing a "politics of victimization", they were victims of a stupid and unjust policy.

Did liberals in general use this example to practice a "politics of victimization"? Did Congressmen rise to denounce the arrests of innocent citizens? Did voices thunder from the pulpit? Did the Nation or The New Republic protest editorially?

No, they did not. The waste of $40 billion last year on this age-old pogrom was passed over in discrete silence.

Because everyone knows this isn't really about health or addiction. Pot is illegal because 40 years ago bearded hippies demanded an end to the Vietnam War, and the worst of it was, they were right. Pot is illegal because the Civil Rights Act made it possible for blacks to vote, and putting police in black neighborhoods to arrest kids for smoking pot is a good way to blunt that possibility.

And for 40 years liberals have bent over backwards to proved they are not emotional people who might stuff a flower in a gun barrel (leaving aside the question of how the gun barrel came to be pointing at someone holding flowers) or refuse to attack some small foreign nation.

In 2000 Lieberman voted to ban dancing, and Tipper Gore worked to censor our music, and then, when some of us failed to vote for these clowns, we were accused of not understanding how serious the situation was.

It is to laugh.

Posted by: serial catowner on October 11, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK
The left, however, is STILL so damn far behind on this. Part of it is, I think, our tendency to do nuance and detailed policy, thus making a clear, concise message more difficult to get across.

I think a big part of the problem is that the left doesn't share a common big picture frame analogous to the religious frame on the right, and that advocates on the left are afraid of embracing a particular big-picture frame for fear of alienating people that might agree with them on the policy details but disagree on the underlying framework.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 11, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is denying the possibility of left populism. Or, to rephrase it, he is conceding populism to the right. The problem with this, of course, is that populism works.

Posted by: Joe S. on October 11, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Big Frames:

Big Business is screwing the middle and working class.

The media are owned by big businesses and can't be trusted.

The Republican Party is owned by big business and can't be trusted.

Tax-cut and spend regressives need to be voted out of office.

Closed government = less oversight = more corruption

There are many frames that are being under-utilized.


Posted by: Barringer on October 11, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

This is a bullshit argument. Over the last few days I have watched as the left blogosphere had ripped Michelle Malkin and her flying monkey squadrons to shreds over MM's attempt to smear Graeme Frost and his family. There was a lot of "besigement and rage" directed against that evil harpy and her gellow-travellers, all of it justified. And guess what: it worked. Now the right wingers and their Republican enablers (see: Mitch McConnell) look like the fascists that they actually are. Pushing back against these assholes really does work, and really makes them look bad. And it might just convince a lot of people that there are no answers on the right, only desperation and the stench of fear.

Posted by: commie atheist on October 11, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK
Big Frames:

None of those are big-picture frames in the sense I was referring to; they are isolated, comparatively narrow beliefs about what is.

A big-picture frame is a belief or complex of beliefs about what ought to be (which probably embraces beliefs about what is, but those are in a sense secondary) that almost any policy position can refer back to; its a fundamental moral framework or language.

Its not a description of why you should vote a particular way today, but of what should guide your preferences universally.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 11, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

mr drum, you're an idiot - know need to expand on this observation

Posted by: Syd B on October 11, 2007 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Orr two lern speling sckills either.

Posted by: Osama Von Mcintyre on October 11, 2007 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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