The case against the case for Obama

(also available at FDL)


Okay, a preface.

Peter Coyote, who first attracted my attention when he signed a "vote Democratic and keep Nader out of it" letter back in 2004, has come up with a sally in Salon against Matt Stoller's piece, itself titled "The Progressive Case Against Obama." Coyote's piece is titled "The Progressive Case For Obama."

Here I am going to proceed in a point-by-point fashion.  The meat of my argument is that Coyote mis-states the economic character of the moment, right now, and that correcting this mis-statement will show the supreme unimportance of a vote for Obama.

Now the meat of my argument.

At the beginning of Coyote's argument are some meaningful recognitions that much of Stoller's case is a good one. Then Coyote offers some historical context to the situation of the present day, the one in which we find ourselves:

Like frogs resting comfortably in gradually heating water, we are just now apparently noticing how close to boiling our environment is. While Democrats have concentrated on a plethora of issues, the corporatists have worked unremittingly to gain power over the entire financial sector of the Nation.

Much of this history takes its cue from the Powell memo, in which a "corporate takeover of democracy" is outlined. Myself, I don't really see why we can't argue that corporations have dominated American democracy from the beginning. Was there supposedly some point in American history when the people as a whole dominated the Federal government?  How are the corporations supposed to "take over" government if they're already in control of it?

Myself, I don't think that the Powell memo substitutes for a proper history of neoiliberalism. After World War II and before 1971, the elite consensus on economic policy included a willingness to concede improvements in the living standards of the masses, and specifically of an anointed "middle class" trained to consume, in order to keep the economy invested in robust growth. This was the golden age of capitalism.

After 1973, however, the elites reversed course, and decided that the world of finance could be "gamed" to insure profits and growth for the corporate economy, without any assurance at all that the masses would benefit. The world economy was "financialized" to increase the power of corporations to manipulate the world economy for their own profit.

The upheavals of the 1970s were the background for the turnaround in elite attitudes. The class compromise that formed the basis of 1960s prosperity was replaced by an emergent "neoconservative" elite attitude of class warfare. This was planned out at meetings of the Trilateral Commission (begun in 1973) and instigated by the Reagan administration and successive administrations thereafter. If Matt Stoller is correct, the Obama administration constitutes a new phase in the class warfare strategy, in which government continually subsidizes corporate elites while imposing austerity on the rest of us.

At any rate, Coyote's breezy history of corporate power offers him a platform through which he can argue that Stoller has singled out Obama as a culprit for the sorry state of world affairs:

By making him single-handedly responsible for having “delivered” all current afflictions to America, Stoller simultaneously demonizes the president and makes him more powerful than virtually any figure in our political history

Here Coyote exaggerates. Stoller's point is not that Obama is the root of all evil; rather, that a vote for Obama does not improve things, nor does it worsen them less. At any rate, since the situation worsens, Coyote asks us about what sort of President we'd like to have in the current situation:

Would you prefer a cool, slender, brilliant black attorney who looks like he stepped out of a Colors of Benetton ad or a strong-jawed white man who reminds us of the “good old ’50s” when white people could do whatever the hell they wanted?

Here it would be nice if Coyote were to confront the argument made by Glen Ford that Obama is "the more effective evil." If the role of government in this era (at least at the top -- never mind the Post Office or the food stamp program) is to continue class warfare, why would we want effective government?

At any rate, after more of this exaggerated depiction of Stoller's argument, Coyote switches to a depiction of the current situation:

The real crises upon us are global warming and extreme environmental degradation and the implications are profound and life-threatening. It should be clear to most observers that the conflict between individual self-interest and the commons is leading directly to our mutual destruction.

I cannot agree with Coyote's depiction of the current state of affairs. What leads to our mutual self-destruction is the continued operation of the capitalist system, and so what we need is a movement willing to challenge that capitalist system. (Obviously supporting the "lesser of two evils" for the past twenty-five years hasn't worked.) Coyote continues:

education, carbon, global warming, nuclear issues, the rights of women, immigrants, minorities, etc., are immediate and pressing.

Here Coyote forgets again -- the general direction in each of these concerns is one of "progressive" retreat, not advance. What is immediate and pressing, in light of that reality, is that we find a way to become politically empowered to do some good for the world rather than getting sucked into a strategy that predicates all efforts upon the election of Democrats. Coyote continues:

In triage terms, an Obama presidency will allow time to work on these issues without sentencing another decade to the negative consequences of panic, despair and chaos.

So why does Coyote want us to imagine that the second-term Obama administration will be less catastrophic than a possible Romney administration? Obama will give us the NDAA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Grand Bargain, and regressive policy on almost every front -- never mind the complete absence of global warming policy. Is that not supposed to be catastrophic? What am I missing?

In reflecting upon Stoller's argument, Coyote moves to conclude with an overall reflection:

I applaud Stoller’s concerns and his passion, but I think he underestimates how long political change actually takes.

Sure, political change actually takes a long time -- if you're moving backwards. We could easily at this point go over the accomplishments of government in this era -- the vast inflation of housing prices, the hypertrophy of the military state and of the prison-industrial complex, the destruction of Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan, the widening of the class divide, the shredding of the social safety net, the incipient privatization of the public schools, the decline of the unions, and so on. Did "progressives" stop any of these developments?

The time frame might speed up quite rapidly, however, if a situation of intense disaster obliges the "progressives" to rethink their strategy of supporting Democrats as a prerequisite of activism, and giving to Veal Pen organizations which do little outside of supporting Democrats. At that point we might all start to champion something (not feeble "progressivism") which was actually in our interests.

A vote for some other Presidential candidate than Barack Obama (preferably Jill Stein) will not accomplish that rethinking on a social level.  But it is a start.  I suppose we could all vote for Barack Obama now, and start thinking about the future, and the mass-suicidal course our civlization is on with industrial capitalism, at some later point.  But when?




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early voted for Obama

sartoris's picture

When I early voted I had three options, Democratic, Republican or Libertarian.  The least offensive of those choices was the Obama/Biden ticket.  I was much more concerned about a congressional and senate race than the presidential.  While there are many areas in which I do agree with Stoller, I was not presented with the opportunity to vote for a third party candidate.  Obama's first term shows a remarkably unwillingness to attempt to regulate the financial industry, which is what I see as the most important priority for this country, if not the entire world.  I am not hopeful that he will enact the change necessary to repair the damage caused by Clinton/Bush, however, I cannot honestly say that I think he will 'make things worse'.  That's not much of an endorsment, but that's where my thinking is today.


Additionally, I'm exceedingly weary of people telling me how to vote.  It's my freaking vote and I don't justify it to anyone.   

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Tipped for final sentence.

downsouth's picture

Nobody should ever have to justify their vote to anyone else.  I may not agree with that vote, but it is absolutely your right to cast it in whatever way you see fit.

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Please note two aspects of my argument --

Cassiodorus's picture

1) I aim to show the supreme unimportance of a vote for Obama.  I'm not, then, interested in outright castigation of Obama supporters -- except of course for the ones who write love letters and such (see my previous entry for more on that).

2) My conclusion:

I suppose we could all vote for Barack Obama now, and start thinking
about the future, and the mass-suicidal course our civilization is on
with industrial capitalism, at some later point. But when?

When do we start building an alternative to this framework in which the "progressives" vote for more neoliberalism?

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If Obama is re-elected, then ...

BruceMcF's picture

... starting November 7th, 2012.

If Romney is elected, some time down the track, after first fighting in a common front with neoliberals in the opposing faction to defeat the worst excesses of the radical reactionaries.


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You may not have intended it,

Mehitabel's picture

but your comment is, to me at least, a devastating indictment of our entire electoral system - and the role we as voters play in it.

We vote for the choices we are given.  And there you have it, in a nutshell.

Well, I for one am not playing that game anymore.  I WILL vote third-party and if I'm not 'given' that choice then I will cast a write-in ballot.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the candidates are far less of an issue than the system is.   We as progressives -- those of us who reluctantly vote for a candidate we don't really like, and those of us who refuse to do so and either stay home or cast a write-in or third-party vote - I think that maybe what we need to be focusing on is not the horse race but the system that drives the horse race.

Why did your ballot only give you those three alternatives?  THAT is what needs to change.

Why did the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates only include the Dem and 'Thug candidates (and why did the Green Party candidate get fucking ARRESTED just for showing up?  THAT is what needs to change.

And god knows that the entire campaign finance system needs to change.  Radically.  And soon.

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vote however you wish

sartoris's picture

You should vote for whoever you wish.  If you wish to write in the name of a candidate that is not listed then that is what you should do.  In my lifetime there has only been one viable third party candidate, the billionaire Ross Perot.  Money is as linked to American politics as smoking is to lung cancer.  Barring a constitutional admendment I don't see that changing anytime soon.  Since we do not have a parlimentarian system I really don't know how a third party can gain traction in American politics.  I have yet to read any coherent ideas on making third parties relevant in America.  Right now the progressive caucus is the largest caucus in Congress.  As progressives I think we should support  their agenda when possible.  I'm not trying to speak for 'all progressives', however, I am not sure it is more productive to support Jill Stein instead of Raul Grijalva.


Bottom line, vote for whoever you choose.  Defend your vote to No One!

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The point is - to my way of thinking -

Mehitabel's picture

that we have to start somewhere.

Step one is to vote, however it is you're going to vote.

Step two is to change the way you vote.  If the system limits your choices - if they only print certain names on ballots and/or only allow certain individuals the free air time during debates - then that's where the focus needs to be.

When enough people stop voting Republican and Democrat and start voting third-party, the system will change.  It'll have to.  And maybe that'll take decades, maybe the change won't happen in our lifetimes.

But we have to start somewhere.

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Good rebuttal.

downsouth's picture

My own vote is also going to Jill Stein, though Romney has my state sewn up easily.

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After 8 years of Bush, Obama came along with

Big Al's picture

those speeches and the hope and change thing.  Bush had taken us to full blown military empire, a quasi police state, and the massive transfer of wealth to the top.  I know alot more than I did back then, but I fell for some of that shit.  Obama had people crying they were so desperate for some promise. I've heard prominent long time activitsts like Chomsky and Zinn say they held out some hope with Obama. He gave a speech in Berlin in 2008 and 200K people came out, in Germany!  The world was hopeful regardless of how the Obots want to play that down.  He received a fucking Nobel Peace Prize before he even started. 

Then he did the same shit Bush did.  And we learned more about what transpired under Clinton and how that contributed to what happened under Bush.  Things took a nasty turn somewhere.

So it became clear early on under Obama that things were not going to change and we're on some kind of undemocratic path to hell while the rich try to steal everything, change societies and control the world. 

Now is the time, four more years of Obama will just make it even more clear.

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Good peice

priceman's picture

I'll link to yours when I write mine and publish it tomorrow.

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I agree.

Glinda's picture

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From the premises that ...

BruceMcF's picture

... a capitalist economy guarantees climate suicide and that the functioning of a Clintonian Hedge Fund Democratic administration is as or more effective as a bulwark for capitalist institutions against the rise of more fit institutions ...

... then the choice comes down to whether it can be discerned which vote leaves the system more open to reform over the longer term. If that's indecipherable, then the only vote that stands a chance of doing anything positive is a vote for a 3rd party, which is in turn a much weaker form of support than actual ongoing work to help build the 3rd party membership on the ground.

I don't buy the latter of the two premises, but if I did, its a quite persuasive argument.

Indeed, I don't buy the reification of the Powell memo of "the corporate sector" into a monolithic bloc. The corporate sector rose over the 1800's to dominance (not that the commercial and property development classes were not dominant before the rise of corporations), and the Square Deal and New Deal worked not by unseating corporations from positions of power but by wedging the corporate sector, with price controlled capital-intensive industries such as the Oil Industry joining a coalition with the goal of maintaining high capacity utilization, low rates of unemployment and rising median incomes.

The English civil war saw the disaffection of some of the Protestant aristocracy from support of the Crown, the American Revolution saw the disaffection of some of the American commercial classes from support of the Crown, the French Revolution saw the disaffection of some of the French aristocracy from support of the Crown, the Russian Revolution saw the disaffection of some of the Russian aristocracy from support of the Crown ...

... it may or may not be impossible to turn away from climate suicide by a head on attack on the continued existence of all corporations, but it seems to me that wedging away some factions of the corporate sector is a more promising approach.

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almost 20 years ago....

Shahryar's picture


Would you prefer a cool, slender, brilliant black
attorney who looks like he stepped out of a Colors of Benetton ad or a
strong-jawed white man who reminds us of the “good old ’50s” when white
people could do whatever the hell they wanted? </blockquote>


I worked for a market research company and every once in awhile some of us would sit around and jokingly talk of starting our own firm that we'd call Leading Questions, Inc.

Coyote's framing would fit in with that.


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Decided to read Coyote's piece.

Big Al's picture

What did he say?  It's not Obama's fault really, it's the system and if we don't elect Obama it will only get worse, with Obama it might not?

I suppose he's inferring that Romney and the repubs are worse, the greater evil, but as usual can't pinpoint exactly how that translates into real actions.  The old they'll attack Iran and privatize social security game.

Plus he says all people are capable of being Mother Teresa or Hitler.  I don't believe that's true, scientific studies indicate that isn't true.  Some people are sociopathic, most aren't.  It just that a large percentage of them seek positions of power and what better power than being a Senator or President, or a Dictator.

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Good discussion here

shaharazade's picture

I'm voting for Jill Stein. Not voting for the presidential slot is for me, giving consent to this exercise in extortion. Not voting only makes it easier for them to run their scam. I do not know how people globally are going to get out from under this so called 'inevitable' NWO of oligarchical collectivism and their vicious disaster capitalism. I'm stuck right now politically even on a local level the entire system is broken. I only know that giving my consent as a human and a citizen to the lesser of evils crap is not going to in any way help. It doesn't buy time for 'change' from the so called Democratic progressives. It doesn't even hold the line. The Digger/ actor and now Zen is right about one thing our only choice seems to be who do you want to have to listen to and look at for the next four years.

When Obama ran in 08  there was at my local barista a picture of him, his high school pic, taped on the tip jar. Behind me in line we're four young un's discussing the election. They all agreed that not having to look and listen to McCain for the next 8 years was the most valid reason to vote for Obama. This was after his FISA vote and shortly after the first 'debate'.

I think Peter Coyote like many rich and famous 'liberal' people underestimate the human spirit and the power that ordinary people have.. Humanistic progress is ongoing and when these 'inevitable' oligarchs  go too far people withdraw  their consent . I do not intend to give my consent/vote to this farce of a two party system that offer only a more cosmetic version of  the world's latest would be masters of the universe. These dark visions of reality are not inevitable and not sustainable. The devil you know, the lesser evil, only prolongs the process of the real inevitable in this world, change.

Democratic governance, human progress is not limited to the  American system and it's flawed history or freaking theories of  economic inequity. Like health care for profit this is not voting it's extortion and even when you pay with your vote your not going to get any protection from the shock doctrine or Axelrod's nightmare 'world as we find it' . Fuck them and the anti-democratic disaster capitalist horse they rode to power on. It's not only pure evil it too big not to fail these arrogant sociopathic monsters always do one way or another.

My election rant. I'm dropping off my ballot today and I'm sticking with my choices, such as they are. No matter how you vote they mean us and the planet harm. for what? delusional profit and power lust..This will not hold it never does in the ongoing history of human progress. What's pragmatic about aiding and abetting the puppet pols that the owners of the place tell us are our choices. Bain vs. Goldman Sachs no thanks.







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A couple of clarifications---

Peter Coyote's picture

At this point, we are discussing discussions about discussions, but the central point I was trying to tease out in my response to Matt Stoller was the holistic nature of the mess we're in, and how demonizing Obama, while it serves to make one feel "separate" from the mess, doesn't really serve much towards a solution----any more than our puny little vote does.   To expand a bit:

    We have power only in aggregation. My vote or yours is a relatively meaningless chit, and considering it to have more than symbolic value is, I think, misleading. We live in a capitalistic system co-opted by radical Free Market philosophies, disseminated, bought, and paid for by the Corporate sector. Personally, I'm a Socialist, from a long line of labor, Communists and Socialistsl. I think the system sucks, and we are all supporting it. Criticizing Obama, Wall Street,  Big Oil, you name it, does not liberate us from our aggregate role as consumers. We all use the same electricity, same money, same credit cards, etc. and our daily efforts as consumers do so much more to shore up the system than our intermittent votes, that these discussions take on a laughable tone.

   Wouldn't it be more effective to harness our energy to create non-profit banks and credit-card p who would distribute profits bi-annually to 'causes' voted on by their customers? In that way we would be aggregating ourselves in the same way that American Express and BankAmerica do. We would be stabilizing an independent economic corridor to support ideas and ethics that we believe in, instead of name-calling and arguing with one another as we fill our gas-tanks and pay our rents.

   The problem with this discussion to me is that it deals with such a vast mega- issue that we can delude ourselves into thinking that we're accomplishing something when we're not. How many years of Third Party wasted votes are willing to settle for to make a point?  Why not directly attack the source of the problem which is money in the political system, and organize to get rid of it---an issue millions can understand and empathize with. If we taxpayers paid for all Federal elections, guaranteed candidates free air-time, and prohbitied Corporations from spending their treasuries to affect public policy, we would be operate in a very different country with a very different Congress...and President. There is NO political party that's going to crank out liberty, justice, fairness with the reliability of an automobile engine, yet we continue to adress Parties as the meta-game, and it is hard sometimes not to believe that we do this for self-aggrandiziing reasons, because it makes us feel important and operating on a larger scale. But I, for one, would rather make a sandwich and give it to a hungry person, than deliver a speech about hunger. That is the source of my discontent with these discussions. Vote for Obama, vote against Obama, but can you actually say that there is no substantial difference between Democratic and Republican platforms, and that they will all go in lock-step with the President if he should be re-elected. Not if there were effective citizens' campaigns, and while we argue "blame" and who's responsible, it appears to me that we are side-stepping the real organizing work that could make a difference.

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Good to see you here

geomoo's picture

And thanks for the substantive comment.  I believe you'll find strong agreement with much that you say.  I think we are all on the same page wrt what we would like to accomplish.  But referring back to your article, and also to one remark made in this comment, one reason some of us take offense is that we are being caricatured, or at least misrepresented.  When we see that the system is screwed up, as you describe, we respond with pressure to make it better.  What we encounter in that effort is an incredible wave of disrespect from party hacks only interested in protecting the reputation of the president.  Many of us have spent the last four years doing battle on that battleground (even if it is only words, our participation in this discussion indicates a belief that words matter) and we have had a belly full of marginalizing caricatures from "fucking retards" to the "professional left" to adolescent to purist, to ideologues to much much much worse.  What I find ironic is that it is we who are being assumed to be focused on Obama.  My impression is that the focus on Obama is purely reactionary because, for the last four years, defense of Obama has been the prime force frustrating our efforts to bring liberal attention to such matters as the torture of Bradley Manning, illegal and immoral drone attacks, the dramatic unacceptability of the government's response to behavior of financial behemoths, and on and on.  One doesn't need to demonize to point out that one has been lied to and disrespected, that enthusiastic support of Obama does not promise to further liberal issues.  In a word, if we weren't constantly facing lies from Obama supporters along with caricatures of who we are, then we would not be equally constantly responding with references to Obama.  In short, convincing people to see matters plainly often involves first convincing them that their own view of matters falls short.  A first step in doing so is in uncovering delusion concerning Obama.

Many of us worked hard to elect Obama because we thought, based on his language, that working for Obama meant working for the causes we cared about.  We were very much mistaken.  This is another understandable reason for wanting to point out the extent to which we have been tricked and misused by the man.  We now find ourselves looking around for some alternative with more promise of being effective.  You list a few excellent examples.  These are examples most of us are well aware of and most of us practice and promote while also participating in the national obsession over presidential politics.

We are not naive.  We are not uninformed.  We are not unyielding ideologues.  These are all caricatures.  The last thing anyone seems to want is to take our ideas seriously and to offer us some respect in return for our votes.  It seems to me that most of the persuasive arguments of why I should vote for Obama amount to telling me I am wrong.  Doesn't work for me.

Thanks for posting here.  Your future participation would be most welcome, perhaps more as allies than in disagreement.

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Thanks for responding

Unreasonable Liberal's picture

While I agree more with Stoller's piece, I found yours refreshing because it didn't pretend that Obama's mess doesn't stink, or use the usual weasle words or arguments so often used by Obama supporters this year.

Like answering any objection to Obama's policies, such as the NDAA or drone strikes, with a "what, you think Romney will be better?"  It's not that Romney is better, it's that both candidates are completely unacceptable to a chunk of the voting population.

So, it's not about getting Jill Stien into office this year, because it's going to be either Obama or Romney, and the next four years will be brutal no matter which one is elected.  More austerity, more wars, more immunity for the rich.  It's about starting to say no to austerity, wars, and fatcat immunity now so the next election will be a little less of the same.

Because you can't support the status quo and change it at the same time.

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Thanks for responding Peter.

Cassiodorus's picture

I am hoping that you eventually notice the character of my issue with your argument.  This is about Obama, to be sure, but significantly it is about history, and about how history is characterized.  I cannot emphasize this enough.

I would like my readers to see history as characterized in light of the capitalist system, in which capital (which we have heretofore referred to as "the corporate sector") views both society and nature as a "free gift" (which it has done for the past five centuries) and which is occasionally bailed out by technosocial transformation, such as it is, which opens up new universes of "cheap resources" for further exploitation by said corporate sector.  Unfortunately for us, the process at this time appears to be approaching its end, and we have not yet created a destination worthy of the name "postcapitalism."  Capital is running out of things to exploit, and so global economic growth has been on the decline for the past four decades. 

Toward the end of your response to my post, you say:

   The problem with this discussion to me is that it deals with such a vast mega- issue that we can delude ourselves into thinking that we're accomplishing something when we're not.  How many years of Third Party wasted votes are willing to settle for to make a point?

Here I would like to question whose vote is being wasted.  The problem with electoral democracy at the Presidential level is that nearly all of the votes are "wasted" -- what matters are a few votes in Ohio or Florida or whereever the Electoral College could tip one way or another, and the outcomes are meaningfully controlled by the vote-counters. 

Such a system must also, I argue, be viewed in historical context.  The record for "progressives" here isn't good -- the past forty years have been characterized by retrogression on the issues, and  so it seems to me that if what we are going to get from Barack Obama's second term is more of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Grand Bargain, compromises with Republicans, and expansion of the warfare and surveillance states, then a vote for Barack Obama is indeed wasted.

The question for "Third Parties" in such a system ultimately boils down to that of the year 1856, when the second party (the Whig Party) dissolved and a new second party (the Republican Party) took its place.  Can we establish the means whereby we can pull another 1856?

You then say:

Why not directly attack the source of the problem which is money in the political system, and organize to get rid of it---an issue millions can understand and empathize with.

At this point it would be easier to beat money than to pretend that voting for one well-moneyed candidate against another well-moneyed candidate is going to forward any such goal.

Finally, you say:

Vote for Obama, vote against Obama, but can you actually say that there is no substantial difference between Democratic and Republican platforms...

Remember that one of Matt Stoller's main points is that the candidates don't follow their platforms.  At any rate, I like to believe that when I donate to a food bank every week and when I promote French Intesive method gardening at a local college garden I at least contribute to organizing that makes a difference.  It's good to know that there are people out there such as yourself who are also making a difference in such ways as well.

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Oh, one more thing

geomoo's picture

Your remarks concerning action vs. words, concerning true activism vs. electioneering--those are well taken.  The problems you highlight are national problems, having to do with national culture and I think, in the end having more to do with the effects of tv than of anything else.  What is ironic is that you are directing those remarks to a group of people who are probably least prone to such matters rather than to the country at large, including those who are aggressively defending war crimes because the are being committed by a democrat.  I have written more than once about what you discuss, and it is a national cultural issue rather than something peculiar to any one group.  It is vital that we do what we can to address the issue you highlight, just please don't use it selectively to condemn the behavior of those who are most likely to actually be activists, even though the critique does apply to us as well.

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You're right in re. the things we should...

ratmach's picture

.... be focused on, the "organzing" we should be doing. And I believe that whether we vote for Obama or Romney or someone else, isn't gonna matter much... at least right now. So to me it comes largely down to "message" and conscience.  My message to Barack Obama (and anyone like him) is that if you prove yourself to be a total fraud, or even just another advocate of the status quo, do NOT expect to get my vote.

And even if I wanted to hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils (assuming he even IS lesser), my conscience wouldn't allow that. For years now, I've been calling for Bush to be hauled before a war crimes tribunal. Obama started off actively working to PREVENT that from happening, and has now become a war criminal in his own right. To the point that now, I believe he should be sitting right along with Bush and his minions should such a tribunal ever be convened.

How on earth could I vote for a person who I feel that way about?

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That's my bottom line, too, ratmach

geomoo's picture

"Lesser of two evils" is such a glib phrase.  When I think of the specific evils that concern me, I cannot imagine voting for the person responsible for them.  I cannot vote for someone I perceive as a war criminal, even if the other guy promises to be a war criminal of an even worse sort.  I just could not do it, and that's the end of it for me.

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Welcome to VOTS, Mr. Coyote, a few points.......

sartoris's picture

     As I have said elsewhere, I think that progressives would be better served supporting the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party.  Meta issues regarding the merits of Obama's 'liberalism' are a waste of time.  The man is a politician and nothing else.  At no time in his public service has he proven himself to be a progressive and I have extremely low hopes that during his second term he will suddenly find his 'inner' progressive.  The current discussions are more or less a one sided fight.  The well funded pragmatic wing of the Democratic Party (the centrist Rahm Emanuel types) have repeatedly attacked the progressives of the Democratic Party.  The pragmatic wing was more vocal in their support for DINO blue dogs such as Blanche Lincoln than they have ever been in their support of the Progressive Caucus, which is in fact, the largest Congressional Caucus. 

     Why are progressives asked to support the pragmatists but never receive any like kind support from them?  In what way will the 'pragmatists/third way' wing of the Democratic Party fight to support the single largest caucus in Congress?  I have never heard one prominent 'pragmatist' even remotely come close to endorsing any idea pushed by the Progressive Caucus.  The devastating austerity measures being pushed upon the European countries are exactly the same kind of measures that are being espoused by the pragmatists/third way wing of the Democratic Party.  Which pragmatist is proposing to eliminate the Social Security or Medicare cap?  Why are we being asked to discuss raising the age limit (again) on Social Security and accept cuts into the Medicare/Medicaid Programs?  Which pragmatist is calling for the reimplementation (there used to be one in America) a Financial Transaction tax which will generate billions from the financial industry without impacting their margins in a significant manner?

     Which pragmatist is asking the DOD to share in the austerity that seems to be headed for the average American?  The idea that we are all in this together is something that no politician can say to the American people with a straight face.  The rich are being sheltered at the expense of the average American citizen.  The derision that the Democratic Party has seen fit to toss the direction of the Progressive community has now caused a lower voter enthusiasm for this election.  There was an opportunity for the Democratic Party to re-take the House and increase their hold on the Senate.  That opportunity was thrown away by the Democratic Party's decision to embrace Republican Lite ideas.  What has the Democratic Party accomplished regarding ECFA or renegotiating NAFTA?  Yes, a meta war has broken out prior to the election.  When the Democratic Party is ready to stop listening to the pragmatist/third way wing of the party and embrace progressive ideas, then the progressives, labor members and liberals who used to make up the party will return.   Look at the world around us, Mr. Coyote, and tell me again that abandoning progressive ideas was the right course for the Democratic Party.


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Quite ...

BruceMcF's picture

"pragmatic" versus "progressive" is a misnomer anyway. The corporatists label themselves pragmatists because they pretend there is no alternative, and so accepting the inevitable rise and dominance of a corporate aristocracy is inevitable, the once middle-class is going to get srewed, and the only choice is between a corporate Whig wing that calls for using lube and a corporate Tory wing that cries that lube costs too much.


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But Mr. Coyote,

ohmyheck's picture

We are not demonizing Obama.  We are taking him to task for his policies.  Here is a link to video that explains exactly what the point is that we are trying to make.  It is long, 7 1/2 mins. but it only makes it point at the end.

"Obama Supporters Actually Hate Obamas' Policies"

I hope you will have the time to view.  It's important.

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what a cool avatar!

nemesis's picture

Sorry to be off topic, but lizard people is my most likely vote.  

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I'm sorry, Mr. Coyote

willibro's picture

I respect your long history on the left, but I don't see this response as a substantive one, to Cassidorius, or to Stoller, or to the discussion as whole. Neither man attempted to "demonize Obama" in any reasonable construction of that phrase. Neither so much as addresses the issue of "demonization". Both articles, and the discussion as a whole, are about seeing a particular politician clearly in terms of the actual policy directions he has either actively set or allowed to be set for him, how those directions align with the set of policies we were promised, and how they align with a set of policy directions all of us here would find progressive. And in light of that analysis, the discussion evaluated the appeal to vote for and support that politician in the coming election. The conclusion was that a vote for a third party candidate made more sense than to vote for this politician. A pretty simple, fact-based argument, really, despite all the ire it has generated (and still is generating).

That there is a "real" discussion to be had, and action to be taken, on larger-scale issues -- omnivorous captialism, election finance, community organization --  is perfectly true, and completely off topic. There is a very strong case against voting for Obama. Stoller made it, and Cass reinforced it. As far as I can see, you still haven't made your case in favor of voting for Obama.


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But come next Wednesday...

ratmach's picture

... if Obama loses, you better believe there'll be PLENTY of people making the case about why WE are to blame. I'm not talking about Peter... he's not a Bot, so I'd hope he'll see what really happened. But there will be a lot of people out there who most definitely will be looking to draw and quarter each and every one of us. 

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Well yes

LaEscapee's picture

and I will be ready willing and able to be drawn and quartered because I will know the truth about why that is even an available option.

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LaEscapee's picture

shaka laka

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That's OK Willibro.

Cassiodorus's picture

I think we should keep looking for more targets at this point.  Peter Coyote tried to make his case with the resources he had, and a proclivity for debate appears not to have been one of those resources.

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I hear ya, Cass

willibro's picture

But as ratmach points out, killing the messenger seems to be very much in vogue with the Modern Democratic Party. And I'm really, really tired of that.

Not that I"m convinced Obama is going to lose next week, but supposing he does: I hope Peter Coyote and others like him remember these discussions when they suddenly find themselves having to publicly and privately protest: "Oh, no, I'm not a member of the Loony Left! I *defended* Obama to them!" :-)

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you make some very good points here.

poligirl's picture

i think part of the reason even for our discussions is that we all still think in the terms of the traditional system in which we all grew up. it's very hard to shake those chains, but we need to in order to effect any change at all. our targeting of the candidate(s) is one way for our voices to be heard, and likely would not have been heard had it not been directly targeting that candidate.

in this day and age of modern bread and circuses, our voices tend to be drown out in the cacophony of party loyalists and corporate speech. the media in general ignores us, unless the Powers That Be want to demonize us or laugh at us, as we saw with Occupy.

speaking for myself, and i think there are others around like me, yes, we do consume similarly and that consumption does help keep the system the way it is; however for many of us, it is not a choice for much of it. i am one of those towards the bottom of the economic ladder, i cannot choose to consume in a responsible manner for some things. i do not have credit cards, and i do try to shop local but many times that is an impossibility and i do have to pay my tokens to the oil,companies for my car is old and is a must have where i live and i cannot afford to change it at this point. i do what i can, but the system has made it so there are no bootstraps anymore. at this point, i'm just surviving.

we do need to harness our energy for change. one big problem that we keep running up against is that we have no real way to get our message out. we do what we can, but organizing is difficult with the near media blackout and the memes promulgated by the media about outsiders. the system has been effective at chopping us off at the knees anytime we may get close to being heard on a wider scale. at this point we are Winston Smiths wishing for change and trying to figure out how that change can be effected. the million dollar question, is how can we get ourselves heard? how can we educate the masses when the masses are dumbed down by today's media and we're ignored or laughed at by the media?

in terms of voting, i think most of us, at least here at VOTS, consider our votes wasted no matter who we vote for. the system is broken and the act of voting to an extent is nothing but a charade that serves to prop up the system.

like you, i firmly believe that money is the root of the system rot we have going on in the US today. but how to get it out of the system? even when there are folks up for office that seem to be for getting the money out, they seemingly are corrupted once they get into the system. and the office holders are certainly not going to get the money out. there may be a few half hearted tries, but we all know that they won't see much if any of the light of day on the floor of Congress, or be discussed seriously as options in the White House no matter whom the occupant is. And even the SCOTUS backs and benefits from the money in the system.

i believe that any change is going to have to come from outside the system at this point. the question is how with all the obstacles constantly thrown in our path?


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But its LESS EVIL!

BruceMcF's picture

I am confident if I state that point, the scales will fall from your eyes and you'll change your mind.

But its LESS EVIL! ... Change your mind yet?

But its LESS EVIL! ... Now?

OK, maybe it doesn't work like that.

I find it astounding that defense for the "progressive case for Obama" amounts to, "it doesn't matter who you vote for, so drop out and work on direct action to change the world".

I'm not seeing the connect with a progressive case for voting for Obama.

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Mr Coyote

shaharazade's picture

Thanks for replying. I don't think most of the people who are voting thrid party or not voting at all demonize Obama. He's just a pol, the one the Democrat's offered as bait in 2007 because people had had it with the 'fierce urgency of now' that was getting fiercer and more urgent. You call this a meta issue? Nah, it's systemic and affects most people who have to live and work in the world. You also seem to think that activist's are only concerned with the  'inevitable ' too big to fail corporately owned government.

OWS was/is local and horizontal. Even OC had a occupy. Most activist's work locally. I took my money out of WaPo both our business/personal accounts and  mortage are with the State Teachers Credit Union. I don't have a credit card, I shop local businesses and sustainable agriculture.  I am lucky enough to live in a liberal urban neighbor hood that actually has city planning we don't even use a car often. Still living off the grid of the corporate squid on humanities face, is virtually impossible unless one is rich enough to have the resources to fund self sufficiency. We're all at the mercy of the savvy businessmen who own our government at every level. Most of us have to work for  corporations one way or another, we all have to live and work in this vicious anti-democratic excuse for an economy.

My state OR tried to have a state bank where the states money would stay here in OR. This was a popular idea, much like the PO, across the board. It was killed in the state legislature by 'powerful interests'. What you seem to be saying is as citizens if you don't like what's going on you should just forget about national politics and organize locally and get your own system. To what end? and how?  Seems to me that this is not very different then Markos saying you don't belong here STFU and go somewhere else. Well I am I'm voting for Jill Stein as that is organizing it's a start.. It's not because I hate Obama he's just a puppet a PR dude for selling the inevitable NWO. The policy, agenda and direction are what I demonize, and what I will continue to fight against both nationally and locally. Where's my habeaus corpus? And what happened to the common good? What about global warming? Didn't you hear this system is too big to fail.

The Democrat's either start representing and fighting for people or they will lose regardless of how evil the opposition is. If  the Republican's are so damn scary why the hell do the Dems make grand bargains with them and debate with them about which sides is the biggest stone killer? Fear of the RW is no reason to vote for its kinder gentler face.


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