Don’t (Diss) Party Like It’s 1999….

The other day I posted on Mann and Ornstein’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. I’m just about through that book, and I’ll do a direct follow-up in a day or so.  But here I want to take issue for a moment with a really powerful work that I finished reading on Saturday, Chris Hedges’ and  Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

That’s a riveting book, an important one, and I commend it to you all.  You can’t read it without being radicalized, in a good way.  Hedges and Sacco travel to the most destroyed, exploited, misery-infused places in the United States and document both wrecked lives and those lived in opposition to the various arrangements of power that have extracted the last scrap of cash out of their communities.  If ever there were a document that drove home the need for a true transformation in the relationship of our government to private capital, this is it.

There’s a corollary to the stories Hedges and Sacco deliver:  in their telling it becomes clear that the government we have is complicit with the particular individuals and/or corporations that have wrought and continue to wreak havoc on the people they encounter.  And so, near the end of his text, Hedges writes this:

We must stop being afraid.  We have to turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for President. All the public disputes between candidates in the election cycle are a carnival act.  On the issues that matter there is no disagreement among the Republicans and the Democrats.

Bullshit.  Pure and deadly dangerous nonsense.

Tell that to Caleb Medley.  The status quo will most likely — and the Republican health care plan would definitely leave him, his wife and his newborn daughter in debt peonage for the rest of their lives. Obamacare, though it leaves much yet to be done, would not.  That matters deeply at least to the ~30 million Americans who now lack health coverage, but will get it, if and only if Obama wins re-election

Tell that to any woman who believes that they have agency over their own bodies (and all the men who agree with them, of course), who have to confront rulings like this one.  This matters really to all Americans, I would say, but surely at least to that (slightly) larger half that possess two Xs.

Tell it to all those who got stiffed by their credit card company, and actually are going to get some payback, thank you very much — thanks to something only a Democratic President and Congress would have approved, and the GOP is still actively trying to kill.  That one case alone translates into stolen money returned to two million Americans, which is nothing to sneeze at, and which would not occur under a Republican regime.

And there’s more, of course, all issues that matter in for-real, tangible ways to lots and lots of people.  No arbitrarily begun and ended list of accomplishments or crucial acts of opposition can capture the full impact of the choice to be made here.

Sure, it’s true, monied interests buy stakes in both parties.  But it is also true that not all those with resources are the same, and a party that depends on the Kochs and the Adelson’s of the world is demonstrably worse than one that doesn’t.  What’s more: one that is capable of appointing judges who, for example, know that Citizens United was a crock — not to mention health care reform and all the other quite remarkable list of Obama legislative victories — is not the lesser of two evils but is rather an unequivocal (if not unmixed) good.

And anyway — if we are in our defiant moral certainty must reject the Democrats as being insufficiently less evil than the GOP, what do Hedges and Sacco think we should do to advance the cause of of all those who so clearly need real change?  Hedges again:

We have to defy all formal systems of power.  We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

I’ve not edited either of the two passages quoted above.  In the text, they form a single paragraph, running from the bottom of page 266 through the top of 267.  So really that’s it:  in the face of all the ills of the American present he and Sacco have so powerfully documented, and facing the potential catastrophes of its near-future, Hedges would have us head for the hills, pace our cloisters and tend our gardens, secure in the purity of a life lived in seclusion, day following day according to whatever rule to which we submit.

To hell with society; to hell with the very fellow citizens whose awful circumstances Hedges and Sacco have spent 260 pages making real for their readers.  Let it all go down while we seek a “survival” that seems to me to be merely acquiescing in loss.

Don’t get me wrong.  Almost all the way through Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is a hugely courageous book, and I have no doubt of the bravery, moral and physical, of its two authors — in excess of mine, I have no doubt.  In fact, most of the last thoughts of the book belie what Hedges has written here. For example, he sees in the Occupy movement a real possibility for useful action.

But here, this call to inaction is to me worse than an error.  This election counts.  The differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are real.  There are consequential differences in the America and the world my son will inhabit that will come down to what happens on November 6 — and of course, what happens after, what we do to inside and outside the conventional power apparatus to force the change whose necessity Hedges and Sacco make crystal clear.

Do not party, or Party, as if it were 1999.  It’s 2012, and there is a decision to be made.

Images:  Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the lobby to the main reading room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Bldg. 1896.

Edmund Körner, In the Convent Library, c. 1910






123 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Tom, right on.

    Turning your back on the Dems will give you another deserting coward as commander in chief.

    It’s what happened the last time.

    The change that needs to be made must be made slowly, or it may turn out very differently than you imagine it will. The lesson of history is that revolutions don’t always turn out for the best. One need only look at France in 1789 or Russia in 1917 to see how well things happen. It took over a century for France to recover from its attempt at violent reform and the aftermath of it, and Russia is undergoing that same process, nearly a century after their revolution.

    No one here would question the need for change. But the problem is that when you roll the dice like this, there are no guarantees of a natural.

  2. 2
    El Cid says:

    But isolated monastic retreats are so quaint and precious! Who among us would not enjoy such a life?

  3. 3
    mamayaga says:

    Actually, they seem to be advocating partying like it’s 2000, as in vote for Nader to protest the selling out of the Clintonians. While I often resent the attitude that I somehow owe my vote to the Dems regardless of any bad behavior, it’s still a matter of choosing between 80% bought and 100% bought, and I have to conclude that that 20% difference really does matter.

  4. 4
    burnspbesq says:

    Mitt Romney will nominate Janice Rogers Brown for the first vacancy on the Supreme Court.

    Do you really need any other reason to vote for Obama?

  5. 5
    schrodinger's cat says:

    I wonder what Hedges and the other author do for a living? How can they be so blithely oblivious, monastic enclave? Are they serious? What is that going to achieve?
    Any way it is the first rule of Punditubbies of any ideological stripe, it seems, both sides do it.

  6. 6
    gbear says:

    He was dreamin when he wrote it,
    Forgive him if it goes astray.

  7. 7
    BGinCHI says:

    Agreed, Tom.

    Refusing to acknowledge that there is a real choice IS a choice, and it is to let the party with the most money and most destructive capabilities get control of the means of power. And they will use the government (the collective extension of the people) to take as much and give as little to those people as possible.

    The goal should be to get the Dems in power so that they can be held accountable.

  8. 8
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @mamayaga: Yes I knew a few Naderites back then. Gore was too “corporate” for them. It is surprising that so called leftists/liberals think that both parties are the same, especially after 8 years of Dubya.

  9. 9
    HinTN says:

    @El Cid: Been there, done that in a previous life. An experience I would not trade for anything and one I would not willingly repeat.

  10. 10
    Another Halocene Human says:

    I must echo the 2000 comments. Actually, it sounds even older than that. It sounds like the gasps of a left that has died.

    Yup, that’ll really rally the troops to fight back when it counts the most.

    Me, I read the history of labor struggle. Much more inspiring.

  11. 11
    Scott P. says:

    One thing that I have gotten frustrated with is the common attitude that voting is supposed to be a sacred act of affirmation rather than a simple civic duty to select one guy or tthe other. When you are presented a choice between oegarbage company that picks up twice a week and charges $5.00 per bag, and another that picks up once a week and charges $3.50 a bag, people manage to make a simple choice without acting like it’s a betrayal of all tthey hold dear. But when it comes to voting, somehow it’s supposed to be different.

  12. 12
    Wazmo says:

    Hedges stated that if war with Iran happens, he’ll stop paying his taxes. We’ll see if that happens.

    Hedges’s religious upbringing and continued belief in a slightly less benign form of Evangelism than the current DOminionist/Prosperity Gospel is the reason his works take on a religious tone.

  13. 13
    jwb says:

    The withdrawal they advocate does nothing to expose or alter the false choice they decry. They are ensnared in the very problematic they want to escape, and the withdrawal would only ensure that the world is drawn more deeply into the abyss.

  14. 14
    HinTN says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Agreed – plus I truly believe that Tennessee would have gone for Al if he had come and asked for the votes. Then we would not have been treated to all that spectacle in Florida and he would have won outright.

  15. 15
    gwangung says:

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    And this is going to happen…how?

    Not without a lot of hard work, creating new systems and doing the gruntwork that makes societies work. Which is going to be the same type of work that would change the current system anyway. Which all seems below the dignity of all those who advocate stopping out.

    It’s a SYSTEM, DAMMIT, and you’re a part of it, whether you want to be or not. Be an adult and build something that’s going to make change, one way or another.

  16. 16
    Brachiator says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The change that needs to be made must be made slowly, or it may turn out very differently than you imagine it will.

    I don’t have a problem with fast change or slow change. Give me someone to vote for, an actual political party with coherent policy.

    But this variation of Democrats are the same as Republicans is not meaningful.

    That said, I gotta add the books noted to my long reading list.

  17. 17
    ericblair says:

    That’s nice, they’ll live in a lovely commune in the woods. That’ll make it easy for the local warlord to round them up and make them pick lettuce at gunpoint.

    I don’t know what makes lefty well-educated white folx think they can just up and check out of the world and everyone else will leave them alone in their splendid pure isolation. You decide it’s beneath you to step up and participate in life, fine, but don’t be too surprise if others take this responsibility instead and you don’t like what they do with it.

  18. 18

    Hedges is sad proof that the disease of out-of-control-self-righteousness can afflict Progressives as well as flourishing in its natural home on the right. But whereas the right has little truck with humane values, Progressives are devoted to them, and so the resulting harm is all the worse.

    Yes, there are obvious reasons for despair. But we do not know the future and one thing is almost certain- if there is a chance, wallowing in despair and self-righteousness is an excellent way to never see it.

  19. 19
    quannlace says:

    Any way it is the first rule of Punditubbies of any ideological stripe, it seems, both sides do it.

    Or the more populist, ‘There all crooks, vote ’em all out !!’

  20. 20

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    Sounds like A Canticle for Leibowitz.

  21. 21
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @quannlace: Or don’t vote at all, that will teach them a lesson.

    ETA: Don’t we have at least two of those purity trolls front-paging here. Who may or may not sully their lovely ideals by voting for Obama and the Dems.

  22. 22
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God: Yeah, I thought of that. Great book. Scared the living sh*t out of me as a young teenager.

  23. 23
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @BGinCHI:

    The goal should be to get the Dems in power so that they can be held accountable.

    This. One hundred per fucking cent THIS.

  24. 24
    D. Mason says:

    Perhaps not on every issue that matters but they do agree on endless empire and they do agree on handing over the nations wealth to the elite few. Those are both pretty big issues that never even get discussed because they agree so deeply about them.

  25. 25
    debg says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I’d add Haiti to your list of revolutions. It’s the site of the only successful slave revolution in history. And because of its initial success, which scared the ever-living crap out of the West, white nations just wouldn’t do business with it. My dad asked me a few years back about why Haiti was still in such dire straits today. Since I’d just read/taught a book and an article on the subject, he got a longer answer than he wanted!

    The book: Michel Trouillot, Silencing the Past
    The article: Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel and Haiti

    Tom, you have in the past inspired me to read great books (i.e., Merchants of Doubt). This post has done the same, and I especially enjoy your spirited rejoinder to the authors’ recommendations for relief.

  26. 26
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Brachiator: I really don’t think you are paying attention. The Democrats are a centrist party heavily but not entirely beholden to corporate power. The Republicans are a right-radical claque of totalitarians. When even very centrist folks like Mann and Ornstein write that the GOP is completely off the rails, you have to pay attention.

    You have a choice, a real one. Not the one you want, perhaps, but one with serious consequences nonetheless.

  27. 27
    Marc says:

    “On the issues that matter there is no disagreement among the Republicans and the Democrats.”

    My crazy conservative in-laws now say the same thing. But I’m pretty sure they still think Obama is a sekrit mooslim from Kenya.

  28. 28
    Bobby Thomson says:

    I bet you $10,000 a copy of Foxfire that Chris Hedges will be the last person to join an agrarian commune and drop out from the grid.

    Say what you will about Willard Mitt Romney. At least his cowardice and disregard for others doesn’t lead him to surrender all power.

  29. 29
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Wazmo: I’ve seen Hedges’s approach before, and it took us until Bill Clinton to even begin turning it around. True, women kept fighting, but far too many Progressives did the retreat thing-and left everyone else under the bus while Reagan trashed a lot of progress that was made. Would a second-term Carter have been worse than a first-term Reagan? What would Al Gore have done between 2000-2008?

    This is also familiar to me as privilege unacknowledged; white males like Hedges have the resources to retreat instead of engage. They can actually buy land to create those retreats where they can securely wait out the massive dislocation and suffering. And the people who will be most hurt will be unable-and unwelcome-to join them in those retreats, assuming that they are even large enough.

    There’s also a whiff of “Politics is tooo hard and full of imperfect Democrats who actually have to make compromises I don’t like.”

  30. 30
    greennotGreen says:

    @HinTN: Really? I live in Tennessee, and I don’t think that. Most TN voters aren’t well informed, so they probably believed the bad press Al got that promulgated right wing lies. They still believe it.

  31. 31
    replicnt6 says:

    May pretty horses come to you as you sleep
    I’m gonna go to sleep and let this wash all over me

  32. 32
    efroh says:

    We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    Reminds me of the concerts in Stephenson’s Anathem. I think it’s a natural reaction to the massive stupidity and cruelty so prevalent in the world, but as you and others have mentioned it’s exactly the wrong approach.

  33. 33
    MikeJ says:

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves

    Somebody is unclear on what a monastery is.

  34. 34
    WereBear says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God: Sounds like A Canticle for Leibowitz.

    And many of us know how THAT one turned out…

    For those whose second head has woken up at last, it is precisely this kind of twee question-dodging that created the meme of clueless, helpless, book-larnin’ liberals who can’t be trusted with manly pursuits like governance.

    I’m overwhelmed with flashbacks to Kenan Thompson on SNL, shouting “Fix it! Just fix it!”

    Because knowing how to fix it isn’t hard. Getting up off yer ass and getting others to do that too; that’s the hard part.

  35. 35
    wrb says:

    Hey, quit the dissing of monastic retreats.

    One can be quite active and influential from them, as history shows.

    Perspective matters.

  36. 36
    Dave says:

    Preach it, Tom.

    Cloisters don’t sound like much fun…unless we get to make beer. That could take the edge off of twiddling our thumbs in the hills while the world burns.

  37. 37
    japa21 says:

    There is no perfection in this world. Never has been and never will be. I hate it being put as the lesser of two evils.

    One party I agree with more than I disagree with. The other party I have absolutely no agreement with. Voting for a Democrat is a vote for the better, not a vote for the less evil.

  38. 38
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @CarolDuhart2: Why are these so called lefties so weak kneed? Giving up without even fighting. My feelings are hurt, so I now I will take my toys, and go home and sulk. Is it because they are not going to be so badly affected no matter who comes to power.

  39. 39
    El Cid says:

    I’m as idealistic as all get-out, but I mostly regard the act of voting itself (not some nebulous and time unrestricted term as “elections”), that moment in the booth or at the table (or not doing so) as an empirical choice for one or other likely outcome.

    It isn’t about my “conscience,” though perhaps at some points in history that might become key.

    A vote from me is an act suggesting I think the likely real world results of having candidate X (or party X) in power over candidate (or party) X is preferable to me, whether directly, or for other people for whom I’m concerned, or both.

    At some times, it might be the most sensible thing to do to not vote at all, or spoil the ballot, or whatever.

    But it’s not about “my conscience”, and no one outside my own mind gives a shit about “my conscience”, and the solemnity with which I bloviate about “my choice”.

    Yet because I’m not acting as a campaign official or volunteer, I feel no compunction to lie about my choice and to duck any mention of ambiguities or contradictions — because that’s life, and I don’t find the scenario of a vote involving promises to be broken and contradictions against my own preferred policies to be surprising or shameful to me in any way. Shameful in general, sure, but not in terms of how I choose to commit that one act.

    That voting moment is of extreme import, but most of life exists for all the other minutes, hours, days, months, and years between elections.

  40. 40
    techno says:

    This debate is so precious. Haven’t you folks caught on to the reality that the really damaging stuff (repeal of Glass Steagall, NAFTA, etc) happens when we get “lucky” enough to elect a Democrat.

    What it means is that the two-party system sucks so bad it can replace gravity.

  41. 41
    Chris T. says:

    @CarolDuhart2: I believe that in an alternate universe, President Gore was a one-term president. After nothing happened on 9/11, and the stock market climbed only about 5% per year during 2000-2003, Gore lost to whoever was next in the Republican “my turn” line, because the economy was so terrible. Why, house values hardly rose at all!

  42. 42
    Kerry Reid says:

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    Who do you mean by “we,” White Dude of Privilege?

  43. 43
    El Cid says:

    @wrb: That’s true, but most famously from their influence over ‘dark Age’ times where nation-state structures had suffered various systemic collapses.

    Wouldn’t it be awesomer if we weren’t in such a scenario?

  44. 44
    Brachiator says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I really don’t think you are paying attention. The Democrats are a centrist party heavily but not entirely beholden to corporate power. The Republicans are a right-radical claque of totalitarians. When even very centrist folks like Mann and Ornstein write that the GOP is completely off the rails, you have to pay attention.

    I’m not sure I take your meaning. There are people who claim that the Democrats and Republicans are the same, but who I think are obviously wrong, and who offer no alternative. They are little more than political disastisfaction machines stuck in neutral.

    I was in the camp of those who saw the Tea Party and others as pushing the GOP further to the right when many pundits and bloggers were dismissing them as an ineffectual fringe movement.

    And it is worrisome that the centrist folks who note that the GOP is off the rails are incapable of pulling them back.

  45. 45
    RaflW says:

    I still have about 50 pages to go in Chris Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites but I think I can see why Hedges and Sacco are so dubious of the Democrats. The elite failures in this country seem very broad-based and the technocratic/meritocratic response system of the current Democratic party seem wholly inadequate to the crisis at hand.

    But running for the hills and living in monasteries seems wildly impractical and selfish.

    Ultimately I think we’re still in the phase of getting a solid diagnosis of our American cultural disease. These are not the guys to then also prescribe treatment.

    Whether a treatment exists that won’t kill the patient is, to me, unknown at this time…

  46. 46
    Patricia Kayden says:

    “what we do to inside and outside the conventional power apparatus to force the change whose necessity Hedges and Sacco make crystal clear.”

    Bing bing bing bing bing.

    That’s exactly what we need to do. Mobilize and protest against the Dems if they don’t embrace the changes that need to be made. That would certainly be more effective than trying to get the Repubs to do anything progressive.

  47. 47
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Chris T.: But those four years would have given us another seat on the Supreme Court. There would have been no Iraq War. Gore would have continued fighting terrorism using covert means-and would have nailed Bin Laden. And his Energy Department, EPA and other allied agencies would have given us a big head start on green energy. Just think what Carter would have done with another four years of effort on energy conservation and solar energy and alternative energy. Think about that while we bake in 100+ degree heat and drought conditions this summer, and while we just went through the “winter that wasn’t” and when we pay higher prices for food this winter.

  48. 48
    WereBear says:

    And since there’s no OT at the moment, just a shoutout of thanks regarding the nightmare of CareCredit.

    Husband looking at some expensive dental work, and brought home the brochure. I said, “I heard something bad about it on Balloon Juice.” Five minutes searching revealed enough horror stories for a new Nightmare series.

    And don’t think that “I’ll be fine as long as I pay it off in the right time frame.” These are predatory lenders who rig the system so that no matter what, you will somehow manage to screw up; and then you are in debt slavery.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    Bokonon says:

    As one Vladimir Lenin once said on the verge of World War I, “you may not be interested in war, but war is most assuredly interested in you.”

    Encouraging people pull back from the political conflict, trash the Democrats on the way out, and then default and retreat into enclaves is a terrible idea. And very damaging – both to progressive goals, but also to the nation. How will empowering the right wing to go on an unchecked rampage possibly improve things – unless you are borrowing from another particularly ugly Leninist idea … that you actually want the system to FAIL so that you can later sweep in and pick up the pieces? And erect a true worker’s paradise on the scorched earth?

    That worked SO WELL during the 2000 election.

    The left doesn’t have the option of sitting out the conflict. They are at war, and the war is pointedly aimed at them. The conservatives in this nation (and – more worryingly, the Dominionist nuts among them) are playing for keeps, and they have a plan. They are executing on that plan. It is an ugly plan. If implemented, it is going to cause a lot of agony and pain and suffering, and it just might break this nation so badly that it can’t be fixed.

    It is neither safe nor moral to disengage from this fight.

  51. 51
    catclub says:

    @CarolDuhart2: “Would a second-term Carter have been worse than a first-term Reagan?”

    There was a chart (Yglesias I assume) of ‘economic growth
    in 3/4 year prior to vote’, versus ‘percent of vote for incumbent’, that showed a linear relation, and a scatter plot.

    Carter had the worst growth of any recent president. No way he gets re-elected on that basis alone.

    And the real GOP savior? Not Reagan, Paul Volcker.

  52. 52
    Davis X. Machina says:

    A ‘monasticism’ with as much to do with monasticism, or country living, or whatever the hell they think they’re talking about as Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine was about experimental agronomy

    Encouraging people pull back from the political conflict, trash the Democrats on the way out, and then default and retreat into enclaves is a terrible idea

    Not it i fit makes the people I want to like me, like me.

    But it’s ok, because politics isn’t about policy — it’s a form of self-expression, where I can inform my friends, and the world generally, about how I feel, and where I’m coming from, by the choices I make between various consumer goods, in this case, politicians.

    We’re looking at people who would go down to town hall and register to vote “Rag + Bone”, if it were on offer alongside “Democratic” or “Republican”. Even “No Logo” is a logo.

  53. 53
    Ben Johannson says:

    Mr. Levenson, I like you, but you still don’t get that there is no future for this country through he electoral system. None. The Democrats will not save you, no matter how much you might wish.

  54. 54
    RaflW says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    Would a second-term Carter have been worse than a first-term Reagan? What would Al Gore have done between 2000-2008?

    Here’s my counter-factual: Assuming Bin Laden maintained his aim to destabilize the West via planes into the World Trade Center, I think we would have seen the GOP tear the nation apart in about 3 weeks if Gore had been President on 9/11.

    The same people who impeached Clinton over a Gap dress would have gone utterly insane. It was very cold comfort to me then (and now) that Democrats still put country before party in 2001, but I cannot imagine the GOP then or now allowing Gore to serve out a term as President had he “allowed” 9/11 to happen.

    Yes, perhaps Gore would have listened to Richard Clarke. Maybe Bin Laden would have been dealt with in the relatively short time between swearing in Jan and that September day. But quite possibly not.

    It is popular on the Left to think Bush royally screwed up and that Clarke’s warnings would have worked. I have far less confidence that would have happened, that our spycraft was really up to that task and Bush was just asleep at the switch.

    So you would have had Gore, who was despised and hated by the GOP, in charge in the 9/12 and beyond aftermath. The GOP would have gone into a nation-destroying rage – only it would have been the left in the US they would have sought to destroy, and American democracy would have been vaporised in the process.

    All that has been done to Obama would have been done to Gore, X3, with “patriotic” rage. It would have been unutterably ugly.

    Or so I can very easily imagine.

  55. 55
    catclub says:

    @efroh: Of course, in Anathem, all the technologists/thinkers were put IN the monasteries to keep them from doing more harm. Everything is a mixed bag.

  56. 56
    Ruviana says:

    I read this a couple of weeks ago and mostly *loved* it. I’ll probably assign the chapter on Pine Ridge to my students the next time I teach Native America. Having said that, I too was extremely frustrated with Chris Hedges’s suggested solutions for this. As far as some kind of agrarian secession, I’ve also been reading a bunch of books about the 70s back to the land movement, and frankly, the MOTUs would probably LOVE that. If you’re spending 14 hours a day growing and processing your own food, you’re likely NOT plotting their overthrow. Finally, what does Ben Johannson mean? Is he one of those “heighten the contradictions” guys? Are the dems the one true way? Course not. Are they a bit better? Yup. People can do more than one thing at a time I think.

  57. 57
    jwb says:

    @Brachiator: I actually blame the Dems and progressive groups as much as the GOP for allowing the Tea Party to gain traction. All the energy on the left was put into ridicule and exposing astroturfing, and nothing into counter-organizing. Obama dismantled OfA (which I still think was the dumbest decision he made in office), the other progressive groups were likewise completely disorganized and so ineffective. I looked around for groups who were doing stuff in summer 2009 to counter the Tea Party and couldn’t find anything. We got knee-capped badly on that one, and, given our reluctance to engage politically, rightfully so.

  58. 58
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @catclub: But would Carter have trashed the unions? Or appointed right-wing judges? Or trashed alternative energy so badly that it took a generation to restart?

  59. 59
    Yutsano says:

    @Ben Johannson: Then lay out your solution. Then enact it. Otherwise you’re just bloviating.

  60. 60
    SatanicPanic says:

    Monastic enclaves? Sounds like that Aspen thing that David Brooks goes to

  61. 61
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Yutsano: If he tells us into which mountains he and his band of guerrillas is withdrawing, we can send parcels…

  62. 62
    RaflW says:

    I’m gonna circle back and recommend Twilight of the Elites again. I think Hayes is right on in seeing that the meritocratic system has given us massive policy failures – both with Dems and Republicans.

    This is not a both sides do it argument. But that we’ve accepted a system of selecting elites leading all our major institutions – business, political, educational, health, non-profit, journalism, etc., that has radically perverted the incentives of those who lead.

    I can’t see that we’ll get to a point of helpful change any faster by electing insane Republicans, but just electing Dems won’t be nearly enough – look at all the earnest wonkiness of our Ezra Klein class of liberals. They’re totally bought into the system that Chrish Hayes so well documents is failing us.

    I’ve go 50 pages to go…hope there’s some recommendations for how to start the shift. Too many things I’ve read have ‘solutions’ that area about as shitty as, though different than, monastic survivalism.

    Seems we’re not at the solutions phase yet.

  63. 63
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Gus diZerega: “disease of out-of-control-self-righteousness”.
    Great phrase. Must use that sometime. And so true about progressives. They’d spite their face by cutting off their nose.

  64. 64
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @jwb: You haven’t been following the Obot web. OFA was never disbanded: it was actively canvassing for health care and for local Democrats during 2010. The problem we had was not enough turned out to make a difference, and one reason was that some local folks were trying to run away from the minority Dem coalition. I know: I was canvassing during 2010 for local politicians.

  65. 65
    Davis X. Machina says:

    …that has radically perverted the incentives of those who lead.

    Not perverted, duplicated. Unless new kinds of human failings besides greed, envy, nepotism, etc. have been developed. To me it looks like the incentives for elites are pretty much what they were in the days of Machiavelli, or for that matter, the great Senatorial gentes of the late Roman republic.

  66. 66
    Chris T. says:

    @CarolDuhart2: I think you may have missed a certain amount of Snark By Understatement. :-) Basically, Ds and Rs might both view the 1-term Gore as a competent-but-dull administrator, during whose term “nothing happened”.

    If only nothing had, indeed, happened….

  67. 67
    Culture of Truth says:

    We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    But first, a book tour!

  68. 68
    ericblair says:

    @Ben Johannson:

    Mr. Levenson, I like you, but you still don’t get that there is no future for this country through he electoral system. None. The Democrats will not save you, no matter how much you might wish.

    “If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” (some doofus named George W. Bush)

    Well, I guess there’s anarchy. It’s been tried, usually inadvertently, many times in recorded history. It transitions to warlordism in about ten seconds. And apparently being dominated by drugged-up rifle-toting assholes in jeeps isn’t very intellectually stimulating or conducive to peaceful contemplation.

  69. 69
    Garm says:

    @efroh: I totally thought of Anathem as well. He wants people to flee the Saecular power. Too bad the GOP would probably sack the concents after a few years because of reasons.

  70. 70

    @D. Mason:
    Neither of these accusations is remotely true. Democrats are actively campaigning on raising taxes on the rich and increasing regulation. You have a bizarre and isolationist concept of empire if you think ‘providing the troops for NATO and the UN’ qualifies. Those are the default Democratic positions. That corruption exists and the GOP has been winning the tax rate struggle since Reagan does not change this dynamic. One side supports the things you want, and the other side is flat-out absolutely against you. You’re not choosing between the lesser of two evils. You’re choosing between a good and an evil.

  71. 71
    Raenelle says:

    Yes, it’s bullshit that being raped is just as bad as being murdered. Clearly, if I had to choose, I’d take the former. However, someone (forgot who) suggested that if you live in a safe state–will go Republican or Democrat no matter what–you actually have a 3rd choice. Vote the way you want and register that you are dissatisfied with the whole Republican-Democrat plutocracy sham of choice.

    Me, if there’s a communist running, he/she will get my vote. If not, I’ve heard Roseann Barr might be on the ballot. She’d be my 2nd choice. If neither a communist nor Roseann are on the ballot, I’m doing a write-in for Tyrion Lannister.

  72. 72
    jim filyaw says:

    call it for what it is, ralph naderism.

    saint ralph still adamantly asserts that he did nothing wrong and there was no difference in what dubya wrought over what would have happened with a president gore. the scary thing is that i really think he believes it. scarier still are the ones who agree with him.

  73. 73
    Cassidy says:

    @ericblair: What kills me is that most of the people who wish for some sort of anarchy always imagine they’re the top dog. It never occurs to them that they’d be some warlord’s bitch, real quick.

  74. 74
    MDC says:

    “The Democrats will not save you, no matter how much you might wish.” LOL. Thanks for trying wake up us sheeple, but who among this blog’s posters or commentariat expects the Dems to “save” us?

    I don’t expect the Dems to save us. I certainly don’t expect the Greens, or Chris Hedges and his monastic enclaves, to save us either.

    I am not expecting “salvation” thru political means, and people who are, on the left or the right, scare me.

    I am simply looking for ways to make society better, 1 step a time. That’s how it’s done — not by electing a slate of magical, perfect heroes, better than the ordinary breed of politician, and not by scornfully rejecting the useful but limited tools of our democratic system.

    One tool in the tool box is voting for the better candidate in any given election — not as a soul-deep life-long endorsement of that person and their entire platform and worldview, but as a practical exercise of power.

    There are also other tools — expressive, organizational, economic, etc. Using the tool of the vote does not exclude using those other tools as well.

    Making things better is slow, hard, incremental work. There are no instant solutions. There are very few revolutions.

  75. 75
    Ruckus says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    You have a choice, a real one. Not the one you want, perhaps, but one with serious consequences nonetheless.

    Absolutely this.
    In a two party democracy one is almost always voting for the lesser of two evils. It’s just the nature of who can get elected. That nature is why even given one of the worst candidates ever(if not the worst) the republicans will probably get 45% of the vote. Well that and racism.

  76. 76
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Raenelle:

    However, someone (forgot who) suggested that if you live in a safe state—will go Republican or Democrat no matter what—you actually have a 3rd choice. Vote the way you want and register that you are dissatisfied with the whole Republican-Democrat plutocracy sham of choice.

    I did that here in California in 2000 — voted for Nader because California is, like, totally a safe state!

    That sure didn’t make me feel any better during the subsequent 8 years of Bush. If I had voted for Gore, I at least would have felt like I had tried to stand up against the Republicans.

  77. 77

    @burnspbesq: Not true. She’s too damn old. He’d appoint someone a lot younger. Someone in their 40’s.

  78. 78

    @CarolDuhart2: It was never disbanded, but it was never put to full use either. It was put on ice until the fight over the PPACA. By then it was too late.

  79. 79
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Of all the Democrats’ plots to hand all our riches to the corporations, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is my favorite. It’s so underhanded!

  80. 80

    @BGinCHI: The goal should be to get the Dems in power so that they can be held accountable.

    And they were. You forget 2010 so soon? People were unhappy with the pace of recovery. You know, clusterf-cks like HAMP. How did that work out? What people don’t get is this. I don’t think PBO, or Daley/Emanuel, really knew/know how to get what they wanted. Meaning, they kissed the ass of people like Ben Nelson when a kick in the ass would have been better. Or kissing the ass of people like HolyJoe.

  81. 81
    Citizen_X says:

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    Counter-cultural horseshit. It was tried by utopian communities in 19th-century America, and by the hippies in the ’60s & ’70s (and, to a limited extent, by some of the crustier punks in the ’80s & ’90s). It didn’t change anything.

    Organizing and political action is needed. Sorry, dreamers.

  82. 82
    Barry says:

    @efroh: “Reminds me of the concerts in Stephenson’s Anathem. I think it’s a natural reaction to the massive stupidity and cruelty so prevalent in the world, but as you and others have mentioned it’s exactly the wrong approach.”

    Organizations which somehow survived through millenia, even through nuclear wars (while in the middle of cities).

    IOW, a figment of Stephenson’s imagination.

  83. 83
    Citizen_X says:

    @Phil Perspective:

    they kissed the ass of people like Ben Nelson when a kick in the ass would have been better. Or kissing the ass of people like HolyJoe.

    Well, we can argue about that till we’re blue in the face, but the cold fact is that for one or two more Senate votes, they wouldn’t have had to do either.

  84. 84
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Phil Perspective: Yes, totally, they should have Fought Harder and Twisted Arms with +3 LBJ Power. That way they might not have won, but we could still complain, just for different reasons, which is, like, better.

    Back to the OP. How is what Hedges is advocating any different from “Going John Galt”?

  85. 85
    grishaxxx says:

    Seems to me like a lefty version of “Going Galt” – which I hope would give advocates of the position pause.

  86. 86
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Citizen_X: Most of what it did accomplish is that a lot of funny-looking hairy dudes got laid a lot more than their historic norms.

  87. 87
    Bruce S says:

    Chris Hedges has written some wonderful stuff and often has brilliant insights into issues that make many want to avert their eyes, but at the prescriptive level, he’s basically taking the stance of an Old Testament prophet. It’s a noble tradition, but should be taken metaphorically, as a cultural signpost, an alarm going off, a scream of anguish, etc. NOT as a political strategy. Hedges has seen most of what’s worst in the world, as a war correspondent and as a chronicler of certain of the worst turns of our own domestic culture and politics. I can forgive him for being a little crazy.

  88. 88

    @Bruce S:

    Hedges has seen most of what’s worst in the world, as a war correspondent and as a chronicler of certain of the worst turns of our own domestic culture and politics. I can forgive him for being a little crazy.

    Pretty much. But you still have to call out the crazy lest people act on it.

  89. 89
    Bruce S says:

    Also, I think part of what explains Hedges’ messianic politics is that he sees himself as having walked away from “the mainstream”, probably knowingly forcing himself out of the journalistically prestigious, Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times war correspondent gig for being so outspoken against the Iraq criminal enterprise cum fiasco from Day One. Of course, few of us can make a living as free-lance writers and best selling authors – even acknowledging his having taken a stance that probably felt like throwing a career away when he was doing it.

  90. 90
    ericblair says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Yes, totally, they should have Fought Harder and Twisted Arms with +3 LBJ Power.

    You don’t need a +3 LBJ, hell, Charm Person is a level 1 spell. Maybe you’ll need Charm Monster if the gooper congresscritters are actually lawful evil outsiders as we suspect, but still.

    I think you can get the BullyPulpit artifact if you collect enough herbs for some lazy asshole standing in front of his house all day, but it might actually be a random drop.

  91. 91
    rachel says:

    No, no, no. After civilization collapses is when you retreat to a monastery.

  92. 92
    Bruce S says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    “But you still have to call out the crazy lest people act on it.”

    True Dat! But I wouldn’t exaggerate the influence of these kinds of rants. About the only folks I know who are moved by that kind of nutty stuff – and they are very few in my experience – are the ones who are already there themselves and think that their vote is a personal integrity issue, sort of like a self-professed virgin choosing her “true love” – over and over and over. Time is better spent motivating infrequent and unregistered voters – who don’t frequent the “Truthout” website and have never heard of Chris Hedges – than arguing politics with the Left fringe. My 2 cents. (That said, among other things I loved Hedges quarrel with shallow, arrogant puffs like Hitchens and Dawkins evangelizing atheism in the best tradition of college sophomores.)

  93. 93
    matryoshka says:

    I finished Hedges’ book over a month ago, and I did not read the ending quote Levenson highlights here so literally. My read was that Hedges doesn’t have much faith in any system that exists now, and that it will be a long time before we have one that works in our favor, so until then, we need to do what we can to preserve the values of humane values and environmental stewardship. At no point in the book does anything else point to a “fuck it, go off the grid and shewt yer own skwurrels” conclusion.

    The “us” in “build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that allow us to survive” means all of us (humanity), not just a few isolated survivalists. Context makes a difference. Read the book. It will give you insight into the place we’re all going under the current arrangement.

  94. 94
    FlipYrWhig says:

    It seems like Hedges is trying to answer a question like “So what should we do?” with a much more totalizing proposal than anyone was really looking for. It’s like saying that what we should do about fossil fuels is go off the grid, grow our own food, and walk everywhere. That’s not _wrong_ exactly, but it’s over the top. Voting for Democrats is like using reusable grocery bags. It doesn’t save the planet, but it does a small measure of good when compared to the alternative. And, you know, we know it going in. We’re not looking for salvation, just a modicum of decency.

  95. 95
    Barry says:

    I agree with Hedges and Sacco that the whole rotten edifice of our system needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Just it’s possible to travel on several tracks: 1)support lame-ass neolibs while working to push the Dems back to good politics; 2)build outside movements that will push the project along from outside; 3) actively fight inside the Democratic party to overwhelm/reform/push out the corporatists.

  96. 96
    Barry says:

    @Citizen_X: Agree: the drop-out project aimed at building self-sustaining communities imagined righteously just led to salting this country with red-neck hippies whose children vote republican.

  97. 97
    Primigenius says:

    I hate to say this, but the only difference between the parties seems to be: if you’re for faster decline, vote Republican. If you’re for slower decline, vote Democratic. I’ve hated having my top choice being between the lesser of two evils for the last forty years.
    Extracting a few percent of the insane profits from the credit card and monied interests as some sort of remuneration for the trillions they’ve generated is rather cold comfort. And if the ACA can’t survive the defeat of the President in November, then I’m not going to put that in the “win” column.
    Uncommon wealth is the enemy of the common weal and until the Democratic Party clearly and forcefully articulates that, they’re just a smaller part of the present problem than the Republicans are.

  98. 98
    kuvasz says:

    Good for you, Tom. The major problem with left ideologues with which I deal (and I enjoy immensely Hedges writings), is that while the supposed impetus that drives them is their love of humanity they espouse actions that will cause no less misery towards the powerless than the current situation they critique. I am not of the opinion that the blood of others will paint the way to Utopia.

  99. 99
    Oliver's Neck says:

    The construction of communities that no longer depend upon corrupt powers is an historically recurrent and powerful act of non-violent revolution. It takes great courage and will and is not the act of a defeatist or a moon-eyed ideologue, but that of a pragmatic realist. Hedges might be wrong about what is needed in our particular situation. However his is not the shallow, silly, “bullshit” position that Tom and many of these comments make it out to be. To read him as such is, in fact, rather shallow and silly and – dare I say it – displays a very conservative (note the small “c”) worldview.

  100. 100
    Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ (formerly IrishGirl) says:

    Shorter Hedges: the liberal version of going Galt

    Yeah it’s stupid, no one will do it and it wouldn’t work unless everyone did it.

  101. 101
    peorgietirebiter says:

    The monastic encllaves sound okay provided they create a formal system of power to deal with the undesirables. You just know any enclave will draw pedophiles, mysoginistic elites, junkies and slackers like flies to a moose carcass.

  102. 102
    Jess says:

    @MDC: Well said!

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    In other words, go Galt. Or, to use a real world correlation, become one of those back-woods militias, full of paranoia and lunatic zeal, and completely ineffectual until they blow something up. Yeah, that’ll change society for the better…

    Don’t these people ever read history to learn how positive progressive change happens? I know, stupid question…they might not get the answer they like.

  103. 103
    Oliver's Neck says:

    @matryoshka:

    I think Matryoshka has it right. This is exactly Hedges point. Tom overdetermines Hedges’ use of the word “monastic”.

    What is probably “crazy” and needs to be “called out” (as Hedges is here doing) is the suggestion that we can make moderate changes within the current system and still expect to avoid disaster.

    Tom, I would have thought you’d engage a bit more thoughtfully when Hedges made a claim you found so striking and at odds with the thoughtfulness of the rest of the work. Your response here (and response to the many thoughtless comments) is surprisingly anti-intellectual.

  104. 104
    hep kitty says:

    Well, I like Chris Hedges for speaking out against the war when it was very unpopular. I appreciate and respect all those who had the guts to do it when it was quite dangerous, actually.

    Really, though, for the most part, those people have been forgotten and pushed aside, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the influence of his political philosophy.

  105. 105
    hep kitty says:

    Well, I like Chris Hedges for speaking out against the war when it was very unpopular. I appreciate and respect all those who had the guts to do it when it was quite dangerous, actually.

    Really, though, for the most part, those people have been forgotten and pushed aside, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the influence of his political philosophy.

  106. 106

    On the issues that matter there is no disagreement among the Republicans and the Democrats.

    That could only have been written by a white male painfully unaware of his privilege.

    Apologies if someone has already made this point.

  107. 107
    Brachiator says:

    @jwb:

    I actually blame the Dems and progressive groups as much as the GOP for allowing the Tea Party to gain traction. All the energy on the left was put into ridicule and exposing astroturfing, and nothing into counter-organizing.

    I don’t think that there is much that anyone could have done to prevent the Tea Party from gaining traction, although I agree with you about the lack of counter-organizing.

    @Ruckus:

    In a two party democracy one is almost always voting for the lesser of two evils. It’s just the nature of who can get elected

    Are you advocating a multi-party or parliamentary system? Didn’t this still lead to a conservative, Harper, winning in Canada, and a political stalemate and ultimate election of a conservative, Cameron, in the UK?

    @FlipYrWhig:

    It’s like saying that what we should do about fossil fuels is go off the grid, grow our own food, and walk everywhere. That’s not wrong exactly

    Actually, that is wrong. And add some guns, and you’ve got a pseudo patriotic survivalist.

  108. 108

    I can pretty easily argue with Tom’s assertion that the Democrats are good and the GOPers bad, outcomes matter in that equation. You can argue that half of the Democratic Caucuses aren’t anything like bad, that is not what you get in legislation.

    Yeah, at this point you have a choice between batshit crazy and pretty damn bad in a hell of a lot of elections. If you think not voting doesn’t support batshit crazy you’re not paying attention, anymore than not getting that votes for pretty damn bad encourages it. Once you’re at this point it is too damn late to get all holier than thou.

    It doesn’t need to get to that point, there is such a thing as Primaries. There are two failures in Primaries, one is piss poor turn out and the other is strategic General Election voting. “He’s too left, he’ll lose to…” carries the seeds of the defeat of change – it means the narrowing of difference between pretty damn bad and batshit crazy. You may lose some, you may not – you can’t know what the difference between pretty good and batshit crazy will do unless you run it, and run it again once those voters have a chance to see batshit in operation.

    I know some of the good guys and know of others, the problem is that they’re left out there with the results of the pretty damn bad ones having the decision in their hands and what you get from that is the politics of pretty damn bad and batshit crazy.

    The claims that strategic voting is pragmatist are ridiculous, it is the process of win at any cost ignoring that pragmatism does mean not getting just what you wanted at the moment. If what you actually want is change then supporting the status quo of pretty damn bad guarantees a failure to get change – ever. We didn’t get to this Democratic Party in a damn vacume, this is the logical outcome of political behavior.

    I suppose somebody will start in about “purity” purges. It isn’t about that, you could remember that I’m a pretty strong supporter of the 2nd A. If you have a “Reagan Democrat” running against somebody that pretty much looks like a Democrat you have a choice and voting for the plutocratic enabling looks pretty much like a GOPer out of desire to beat the {R} GOPer gives you what you’d expect when it doesn’t take many of them to drive outcomes.

    I’ve wasted my time making this argument I don’t know how many times so I’m about tired of it.

  109. 109
    peorgietirebiter says:

    @Oliver’s Neck: Having not read the book I’ll tread lightly, but anything that might be interpreted as a good reason to not vote for Democrats is a bad idea.
    We tend to forget the real life consequences others will pay for our princpled actions.
    I remember the calls for Obama to stand his ground on the Bush tax cuts. It’s pretty easy to say go ahead, the blood will be on your hands when you’re not one of the hostages being threatened.

    Are you really that comfortable with the idea it’s crazy to continue attempting to make moderate changes within the system when the disaster you predict would immediately visit the most vulnerable and least culpable among us? When it’s completely predictable and completely avoidable it can’t be seen as collateral damage, IMHO.

  110. 110

    I’ll say at the outset here that I haven’t read the book. But this:

    We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficient that will allow us to survive.

    What the hell? This comes at the end of the book these guys wrote after spending time in the most cataclysmically abused and exploited places in the U.S.? The only people who could write a book like that and then come up with this “answer” to what they’ve shown are people who can happily, easily, safely walk away from these places without another thought to what they leave behind them. Most coal miners can’t do that. How many people who live in the worst parts of Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia or Chicago or Newark can just get up and start their own self-sufficient monastaries? Shit…

  111. 111
    Oliver's Neck says:

    @peorgietirebiter:

    Are you really that comfortable with the idea it’s crazy to continue attempting to make moderate changes within the system when the disaster you predict would immediately visit the most vulnerable and least culpable among us?

    Hedges’ point is that this disaster has already been visited upon those amongst us who are most vulnerable and least culpable – and that the current systems of power are structurally opposed to ending that suffering. Therefore he thinks that alternative structures/societies must be built to try to mitigate that suffering – and to make clear to the world the horror of the status quo.

    If you’ve some interest in Hedges’ actual argument, not Tom’s confused reading of it, try Bill Moyers’ interview of Hedges from the last week or so. Hedges also writes regularly at Truthdig.

  112. 112
    Oliver's Neck says:

    @Horrendo Slapp (formerly Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):

    You’re right, that would be a shockingly stupid and tone deaf conclusion to their book. Therefore it’s probable that their actual conclusion is something very different than your characterization of it.

  113. 113
    peorgietirebiter says:

    @chuck butcher: You didn!t waste your time on me, it’s an excellent reminder. That we didn’t get here in a vacuum is especially worth remembering and there’s blame enough to go around. I’m all for the idealistic, pragmatic and curmudgeon. As long as they’re not being self rightous, smug or ponting fingers it’s all good.
    FWIW, I don’t think many Dems expected the Reagan Revolution to be followed by the Spanish Inqusition with the disciples of Atwater. It’s still difficult for me to believe these people actually hate us and it’s by design. Also, too, in politics and business, big money stakes make caution the rule and courage the exception. Our cautiion has been rewarded with increasingly severe bloody noses, but I think Tom’s right, Obama has scored some points that shouldn’t be dismissed. Think about the money and the energy the right has expended on Obamacare. All of it just to maintain their shrinking base with no chance of gaining converts. And it has literally become a life line for a bunch of folks. Anyway, thanks for the post no matter how many times you’ve argued the point.

  114. 114
    peorgietirebiter says:

    @Oliver’s Neck: Thanks, I’ve read him at Truthdig and I’ll watch the interview. Two things: I didn’t intend the “comfortable” comment to suggest what it obviously suggests. Is anybody really comfortable… would have said what I was actually thinking. I apologize.
    Also I’m painfully aware of the horrors the status quo inflicts on the powerless, my point being it can and will get much worse immediately if enough people decide the upcoming election is as good a time as any to make a break. I’m of the age that the outcome won’t have any noticable effect on exterior life, that isn’t the case for millions. Thanks again for the link.

  115. 115
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Oliver’s Neck: Dear Neck,

    I’ve actually listened to Hedges, and read him too, and the problem is that my reading is not confused; it’s unnuanced — deliberately.

    Hedges is very clear about who he is — you can’t come away from the Moyers interview and much else without getting that knowledge loud and clear. He knows what he believes and what he feels he must do. And it’s impressive and important.

    But the conclusion he comes to as far as behavior in electoral politics is to me a terribly foolish one. Not necessarily — not at all for him; he can’t do the work he does and come to a different conclusion, it seems to me. If you pay attention to the consequences of “plague on all their houses” voting in the past, you then have to ask yourself how many of the up to a million excess Iraqi deaths could have been avoided if Nader’s voters had not followed the same logic Hedges advances here.

    I think it possible — vital — both to vote to make the best of the immediate situation and to undertake the long struggle that Hedges advocates. To dismiss the former because of the greater value (to you) of the latter is to invite misery (and to undermine that longer campaign, imho.)

    And, as noted — I do disagree with Hedges, and perhaps with you, in his and perhaps your claim that the choice is simply between trivially different shades of evil. As noted in the post, there are clear, material differences between the parties that have real significance in the lives of millions. To wave that away as window dressing is to commit the kind of willed leveling of experience that Hedges himself rightly terms a sin in other contexts.

    Oh — and about that anti-intellectual stuff…and the horse you rode in on, partner.

  116. 116
    karen says:

    FUCK HIM!!

    There are people in states that will not be allowed to VOTE.

    There are millions who are being disenfranchised.

    If the parties were really the same, would those Voter ID laws even be enacted right now? When did the current Dem party (not the Dixiecrats) take away the right to vote?

    And Hedges wants to lead a “don’t vote, vote for Nader, Dems are just as bad as Republicans” revolution?

    Of course he does. It’s lovely to be such a purist when you have money, don’t have to worry about seeing doctors or having a safety net to fall back on.

    Most of us don’t have that option. So fuck Hedges and fuck anyone who thinks that we have to turn our backs on the Dems no matter what “ghoulish” candidate the GOP throws at us?

    No matter if we return to the feudal society that the GOP wants us to return to?
    No matter if schools will have the same Texas platform of banning critical thought?
    No matter if we get all Scalias in the courts and Supreme Court?

    NO MATTER IF WE LOSE THE RIGHT TO VOTE?

    Hedges won’t be the one making a nickel an hour for wages. YOU WILL BE.

  117. 117
    Baud says:

    Shorter Hedges: Get thee to a nunnery!

  118. 118
    Origuy says:

    If Hedges is really looking to monasticism as a model, he need to look harder at the economics of medieval monasteries. They could not survive without the support of the aristocracy providing land and money. In return, the monks and nuns generated spiritual power through their prayers and rituals. Whether they had any effect or not, the nobility of Christendom believed they counteracted the warfare and other sin necessary to maintain their stations. I don’t think today’s aristocracy would be so generous.

  119. 119

    […] In the Baloon Juice thread on Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, a few commenters complained of what they described as a misreading, or undervaluing of what Hedges really meant when he called for his readers to “turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for President…” […]

  120. 120
    Barry says:

    @Origuy: “If Hedges is really looking to monasticism as a model, he need to look harder at the economics of medieval monasteries.”

    And they were rather vulnerable to the same things that everybody else was. If the harvest was bad, a plague hit, or some bandits/nobles/norsemen came calling……

  121. 121
    Barry says:

    BTW, is this the same Chris Hedges who wrote ‘Twilight of the Elites’?

  122. 122
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Barry: That’s Chris Hayes, not Hedges. Hedges wrote _War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning_.

  123. 123
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @chuck butcher: There’s nothing wrong with the argument that primary challenges are a good way to smack the jukebox and stop it from repeating. The problem is that when the “Republican lite” Democrat wins anyway, the insurgents sulk and find a way to blame someone for stabbing them in the back, as though they can’t really believe that the electorate may actually like the Republican-Lite option better. I suspect that a lot of Democrats _do_ often cast savvy “electability” votes in primaries rather than just picking the candidate they like better — but I think we have to hold open the possibility that Arkansas Democrats really do prefer Lincoln to Halter and weren’t just hoodwinked by the Democratic establishment into picking the worse option.

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  1. […] In the Baloon Juice thread on Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, a few commenters complained of what they described as a misreading, or undervaluing of what Hedges really meant when he called for his readers to “turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for President…” […]

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