Of Radicals and Liberals

NAACP Rally

It won’t come as a surprise that I tend to agree with Shawn’s assessment of mainstream liberalism’s relationship to its leftier-than-thou radicals.

In the comments though, NewDealer’s remark helps crystalize the real conflict,

What is going on in North Carolina is a good reason for liberal pragmatism

What’s going on in North Carolina is that Republican super-majorities in the legislature, as well as control over the governor’s office, have led to slew of anti-liberal policies, including but not limited to,

Some of the gems advanced recently in the legislature include an abortion bill tacked first onto an anti-Sharia law and then snuck in through a motorcycle safety law (new TRAP regulations may shutter all but one clinic in the state). Another bill forces all educators to teach seventh graders that abortion causes preterm birth (it doesn’t). Lawmakers also enacted legislation (described here and elsewhere as “the harshest unemployment insurance program cuts in our nation’s history”) that resulted in 70,000 North Carolina citizens losing their unemployment benefits. The state is one of the 15 to have refused Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. A proposed education bill would slash teacher compensation, (already ranked among the lowest in the nation), eliminate tenure, and use vouchers to reallocate $90 million of public-school funding to private schools (The school superintendent issued a statement this week saying that in light of the proposed deep cuts to the education budget “For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care.”) Don’t forget the embarrassing proposed resolution allowing counties and cities to enshrine a state religion. Or the proposed ban on nipples.

This led Erik Loomis to speculate about inter-liberal disputes come 2016, and declare,

When we are having this debate, can we please all point to North Carolina as what will happen the next time Republicans control the House, Senate, and presidency? Because it is absolutely what will happen.

It’s telling that just six months into the President’s second term this specter is already rearing its ugly head. Look upon North Carolina today and know what you will have wrought if you vote incorrectly!

This entire attitude is counterproductive to any kind of “liberal” agenda. For all those purity-trolls on the far left who pride themselves on ideological purity and political isolation, there are partisans like Loomis who are more concerned with resisting the evils of their ignorant political opposition than achieving the most progressive reforms and liberal reframing of the discourse possible.

So it is enough to support right of center Southern Democrats who think abortion is wrong and an offense to God but who won’t support constitutional amendments in the state or Congress. Or Democrats who believe that global warming is real and man-made but support robust drilling for natural gas because at least they won’t give the permits away for free like their Republican counterparts.

In the short term that might stave off infection, but the blood will continue to flow over the long run. If Obamacare is the sort of liberal legislative victory we can expect every eight years, we need to re-evaluate what we mean by progress.

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16 thoughts on “Of Radicals and Liberals

  1. “So it is enough to support right of center Southern Democrats who think abortion is wrong and an offense to God but who won’t support constitutional amendments in the state or Congress.”

    This is fine with me. I have no problem with a person being personally opposed to abortion but still thinking it to be a constitutionally protected right. The issue is their actions, not their personal beliefs.

    “Or Democrats who believe that global warming is real and man-made but support robust drilling for natural gas because at least they won’t give the permits away for free like their Republican counterparts.”

    This one is trickier. I think it is more acceptable to vote against a politician here because they are doing damage to the environment. The Southern Democratic politician is doing no harm by his or her personal opposition to abortion. They have their views but are making them personal and not imposing. I’m a bit perplexed by your first part. What is wrong with someone saying “I am personally opposed to abortion but think it should be a legally protected right and I can’t impose my morality on others?” This is what Joe Biden said during the Vice Presidential debates to great applause.

    In the end, I am not a single-issue voter and not one for “holier than thou” politics. I might not agree with Diane Feinstein on everything but I know that she will vote the way I want her to most of the time. Single-issue voters confuse me. Yes, I really don’t like her stance on the NSA but that does not mean I am going to vote for the candidate who I agree with on NSA but oppose on twenty other issues. I generally consider myself to be pro-Israel but I would still vote for a pro-Palestinian liberal than a pro-Israel Republican because that R-label comes with a ton of extra baggage that I don’t support like anti-environmentalism, anti-labor unions, anti-welfare state, anti-gun control, etc.

    I would vote against her in a primary because of her NSA stance but not in the general election. Same with the pro-Palestinian liberal.

    Now if a Democratic or Liberal politician made remarks that I considered racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, etc I might not vote for that office but I will not vote Republican under any circumstance unless there is a radical change/swap in what the parties stand for again.

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    • Mind your manners. The republicans around here write D beside their names.
      Look a little deeper before voting.

      Sometimes the liberals even wear “R” (not this year. this year we got the “certifiable” republican).

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  2. “Democrats who believe that global warming is real and man-made but support robust drilling for natural gas because at least they won’t give the permits away for free like their Republican counterparts.”

    This might be a bit too off-topic, but I’ve seen you assert something similar in other posts. Namely, one can understand that climate change is real and caused by humans and still support increased drilling for natural gas, and not just to gain the political support of fossil fuel producers. In the short- to medium-term, natural gas can be an important substitute for coal, which produces far more greenhouse gas emissions for the energy produced (not to mention other environmental nastiness.) This has already been happening in the US for the last few years and has helped reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In the long-term, you definitely wouldn’t want to use natural gas for fuel, either, but energy alternatives to fossil fuels for electricity generation are currently still not economical (but are getting there!) From that dreaded pragmatic (gasp!) and technical viewpoint, switching from using fossil fuels isn’t easy or something that can happen through government fiat alone.

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  3. I think part of the problem is that a lot of what amounts to the Far Left in the United States doesn’t feel that it really has a voice in politics, society, or media. This is partly because of the American political system and how it treats third parties. This is also because the GOP seems to feel a greater need for various reasons to speak to and sooth its more radical members. The Democratic Party either doesn’t feel this need or more likely fears that it can’t engage in this sort of behavior from various reasons ranging from not wanting to get labelled dirty hippies to a belief that they do not have this luxury because the GOP is off the rails and somebody has to at least try to fend off disaster.

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    • Which leftist are you referring to – the Greens? The Anarchists? Look, the Left as a whole has no voice any more, because the Democratic Party has chosen to follow the money, and thus followed the Republicans to the Right. On a good day – and we’re having fewer of those – the Democrats at the state and national levels are operating (not fulminating) as centerists. On a bad day they are to the right of center, but not nearly as far as the Republicans have been dragged. So what you’re seeing in North Carolina and Louisiana as I note below is not a Far Left Fringe that’s being left out in the rain, it’s anyone even slightly to the left who’s being steamrolled for the pleasure o f the politicians and their plutocratic backers.

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  4. I love North Carolina. I have friends who have attended every Moral Monday protest in the state.

    And I can say with great certainty that if you wanted to know what this was going to look like, you only had to look to my home of Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal is now in his second term doing this to another economically and socially struggling state. Sadly, no one there started a Moral Monday protest to overcome it.

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    • who do they get replaced with? As Republicans break up into warring factions and Democrats continue moving Right, who takes up the slack? Or do you think a one party system is ok?

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      • American political differences were even more attenuated during the Cold War. Faced with a common enemy, nobody wanted to be associated with socialism, much less communism. Operating from the mean, it’s safe to say America is a moderately conservative nation. Even our most-liberal politicians are to the right of what passes for conservative in other nations.

        America’s too damned big to be very liberal. Liberalism arises from a view of the individual within a society, his roles and responsibilities to that society, society’s responsibility to everyone. Once a given group grows beyond a certain number of people and Society can only be seen in a two-point perspective, the Individual re-emerges. It explains our contradictory relationship to Congress: collectively they’re all chumps. But “Our Guy”, well, he’s great. He brings home the bacon. That’s not Pork, those are jobs in this area, dammit. Etcetera.

        The Republicans aren’t breaking up into warring factions, not yet anyway. They all have a common enemy in President Obama. While this remains true, they’ll attenuate their intramural fights, as the entire nation did during the Cold War, and focus on balking Obama’s every move. The Democrats lost a huge opportunity in 2010 and now they must overcome gerrymandering on a massive scale. If they’re not careful, they might lose the Senate, too. I’d give you even odds on that coming to pass.

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      • Well, what I’m willing to work for, is a more civil libertarian Republican party. Also a party that wants to regulate, at some level or another.

        A good basic plan is for the Republicans to stop catering to the Southern Conservatives (they’ll either vote for ya, or you don’t need ’em. catering to them costs Republicans votes).

        Then the democrats can go back to being more… lefty…

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  5. The overwhelming majority of adults in this country can easily fall under a broadly defined “moderates” umbrella. The radical right and radical left are small factions of the electorate. As is typical of most radicals they feel deeply about their positions and are willing to put money, effort, and time in support of their positions. While a radical radio talk show host inflames and inspires his listeners the voice of reason and moderation puts them to sleep. Who gets the air time? Who is demonstrating and protesting for air time on the nightly news? Certainly not the moderates. Who wants their cause and their beliefs enshrined in the national psyche at any cost? Not the moderates.

    it is obvious that no matter if we are talking about abortion, global warming, national health care or any other “hot button” issue there are those who are willing to ignore all economic considerations, scientific data, or history, believing that the justness of their cause will somehow prevail over cold hard logic. A bit less fervor and a bit more common sense would be a welcome change.

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  6. I don’t think that what’s happening in North Carolina is particularly dispositive wrt liberalism vis-a-vis radicalism at all, but I do think it’s good reason to cast votes in North Carolina that most decrease the likelihood that members of the Republican Party get elected to office and to majorities in the legislature. Votes that increase the likelihood of people other than members of the Republican Party being elected less than other votes do are not votes that most decrease the likelihood that members of the Republican Party get elected to office and to majorities in the legislature.

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  7. …Also, if the Left could get an Obamacare-scale move to the left *every eight years* merely by embracing a lesser-of-two evils liberalism, and you would *still* be saying not only that, with that track record, any person interested in progress toward the Left would need to re-evaluate what she means by progress, but even that taking that approach would then still be counterproductive to any kind (ANY KIND!) of “liberal” agenda, well then, I guess, whereas before I thought there might be some basis for communication between the likes of you and me on these questions, I guess in light of that there clearly isn’t.

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  8. Pingback: Political Liberalism (Against Radicalism) | Ordinary Times

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