There’s a party up there all the time

I’ve had a lot of arguments with wingers over the years, and while I’ll admit some are brownshirts and/or racists, I’ve also spoken to a lot of people who seemed nice and well-meaning and reasonably informed but who I just didn’t agree with. Maybe they’re right about some things, maybe in 200 years everyone will agree that a flat tax was the way to go. Stranger things have happened. I wouldn’t bet my life against it.

But I would bet my life against a No Labels Bayh-Graham, or facsimile thereof, presidency happening any time soon. Ed Kilgore (via Atrios):

Aside from underestimating the attachment of Americans to the two major parties, and the structural barriers to successful third parties that exist throughout our political system, the most common problem with third-party fantasies is that they stipulate some sort of common ground for widely disparate people with various grievances against the major parties. Most recently and notoriously, this has led many writers to imagine a third-party coalition focused on a deficit hawkish agenda of tax increases and entitlement “reforms” that is even more unpopular than the existing parties. And for reasons that elude me, a lot of folks impressed with the GOP’s unpopularity don’t seem to notice that about half of rank-and-file Republicans consistently think the party’s not conservative enough, a view that isn’t exactly consistent with some “centrist” third party drawing from both parties.

Indeed, I can’t get through the high-brow stuff about how third parties can’t exist in a “first past the post” system (mostly because the phrase “first past the post” annoys me so much), but I just don’t see how anyone other than Ron Fournier is going to get a real hard-on for eat-your-vegetables proposals. And even if they did — as Kilgore points out — how would you get all these narcissists to agree on exactly what counterintuitive/”tough minded” wanker policies they supported?

The not-so-sad truth is that no one loves a triangutard. That’s part of the reason libertarianism is so unsuccessful. “Freedom fuck yeah” might be a winner but no one outside Brookings and the Atlantic is interested in hearing why Megan McArdle does support national health care even though she wrote a piece called “Why I Am Against National Health Care”.

Not many people want to think that hard, and those that do usually have the sense to think hard about something less inherently nonsensical.

I’m disheartened to read that Ron Brownstein and James Fallows have been on the third-party bandwagon, but all in all the list of idiots here will amuse you.

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163 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Rule # 1 in politics (and life): Criticizing is easier than doing.

    That’s why third parties can’t succeed.

  2. 2

    Why do people assume that if we have more than two parties, that it will result in a better outcome. Israel and India have multiple major parties and if anything their politics is more dysfunctional than that of the US.

  3. 3
    Barry says:

    “… but I just don’t see how anyone other than Ron Fournier is going to get a real hard-on for eat-your-vegetables proposals. ”

    The trick also is that Fournier isn’t pushing an eat-your-vegetables plan, but rather a ‘you get f-ed, the elites get richer, and then we come back later for more’ plan.

  4. 4
    Elizabelle says:

    It makes me sad that some people who conclude (correctly) that the Republicans have jumped the shark cannot imagine themselves Democrats.

    Right on past them clamoring for a third party, when the Dems have been correct on so many issues.

    Eff ’em. I hope a no labels unicorn falls on them and injures them, grievously.

    And there be no Obamacare to mend their wounds.

  5. 5
    Hal says:

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression of multi-party systems is that the smaller parties always end up forming alliances with the largest parties. The smaller tertiary parties do not have enough political sway to directly affect political outcomes, but if one of the “ruling” larger parties needs more votes, they can woo the smaller party based on some sort of mutually agreed upon agenda.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    The not-so-sad truth is that no one loves a triangutard. That’s part of the reason libertarianism is so unsuccessful.

    That, and the fact that libertarians are Republicans.

  7. 7
    jl says:

    @Barry:

    ” I just don’t see how anyone other than Ron Fournier is going to get a real hard-on for eat-your-vegetables ”

    To have a serious electoral chance, any goo-goo goulash goody-two-shoes third party would have to put some proposals in their platform for the Ron Fournier types to eat their vegetables.

    Should a third party effort be made with such a platform I predict that Ron Fournier is not going to get a real hard-on for eat-his-vegetables, He will get a hard on for the lesser people to go dumpster diving and smile when they come up with some rotten vegetables to eat.

  8. 8

    @Hal: Yes and the coalitions tend to be volatile.

  9. 9
    MikeJ says:

    And every time somebody complains that third parties would do just fine if only we had a parliamentary system like Britain, just say, “Nick. Clegg.”

    Lib Dems will never get anywhere near power again because all they got in return for putting the tories in was a tory government.

  10. 10
    Hawes says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: well those are parliamentary systems with dozens of parties. All systems of democratic representation suck until you’ve been to a country without it.

  11. 11
    TG Chicago says:

    Please refrain from using the -tard suffix. No need to mock the mentally disabled.

  12. 12

    @Hawes: True. I was just making the point that having more than two parties is no panacea.

  13. 13
    jl says:

    @Elizabelle:

    ” It makes me sad that some people who conclude (correctly) that the Republicans have jumped the shark cannot imagine themselves Democrats. ”

    There are a lot of deluded self-interested narcissist in this country. It goes with this kind of democracy with its deluded myths. Not sure whether the world has seen the like since Athens. Read Aristophanes ‘The Knights’ and see whether some scenes ring a bell.

  14. 14
    TG Chicago says:

    @Elizabelle: agreed. We have a centrist party; Democrats. What we don’t have is a party that the civilized world would recognize as a party of the left.

  15. 15
    Violet says:

    @MikeJ: So true. One of my friends comes from a long line of Lib Dems and was excited when Nick Clegg got so much attention and they did so well. And then they threw in with the Tories. Ugh.

  16. 16
    Matt McIrvin says:

    In 2005, Fallows may well have been thinking of an anti-Iraq-War party.

  17. 17
    Splitting Image says:

    The U.S. is stuck with two parties until it gets rid of the Senate at the federal level and in every state that has one. Until then, the only way to stop one of the two main parties from controlling both houses is to rally around the other one.

    First-past-the-post isn’t so bad if there are three or four major parties, but it starts to cause problems if there are more than that. The experience in Canada is that 40% of the vote will win a majority of seats when there are three national parties, and that percentage declines as more groups take a share of the pie. With enough parties looking for votes, it becomes possible to win a seat with 27% of the vote, and you all know what happens then.

  18. 18
    MikeJ says:

    @Violet: I knew several Lib Dem voters. They were all of the “I’m too clever to be fooled by a real party” sort. I don’t think they’ll be making that mistake again.

  19. 19
    dedc79 says:

    If we get a third party, I don’t expect it to be some kind of Fournier-wet-dream “centrist” coalition. I think it will be the result of mass exodus from the Republican Party into an even more openly far-right and nationalist party, leaving the Rovians/McConnells/McCains/Flakes/Boehners/Murkowskis and a few others behind. And if you think that’s unrealistic, take a look at this: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/l.....republican

  20. 20
    Belafon says:

    @Hal: In a system where power is dished out based on percentages won, the smaller parties with seats have outsized influence as others try to pull them in to form a majority. In a system where the power is distributed based only on being in first place, parties will tend to coop the messages of smaller parties to pull in those who support the idea, because once you have one, the influence of smaller parties goes away.

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    I believe that a lot of places that have multiple parties do not necessarily have multiple ideological parties. The parties may be divided on regional, linguistic, religious, or some other basis other than pure ideology. Even if the U.S. with its two-party tradition, the current ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats is a relatively recent phenomenon.

  22. 22
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I think it’s typically not so much that people think a third party would result in a better outcome as that they just don’t want to vote for the existing parties. A multiparty system might provide more opportunities for people to vote without feeling like they’re horribly compromised.

    Of course, they might well just feel that way anyway once the multiparty coalitions shake out, and it turns out their people are collaborating with some enemy or other.

    Political parties in the US really play much the same role that multiparty coalitions do in parliamentary systems. Except that an unusual feature of politics of the past decade or two is that Republican legislators, for a while, actually voted in lockstep like a party in a parliamentary system, while the Democrats didn’t, and that gave the Republicans tremendous power in excess of their numbers.

  23. 23
    Violet says:

    @MikeJ: My friend comes from a long line of Lib Dems, so he’s kind of a Lib Dem by default. He’ll probably vote for them again but I bet a lot of people who were more casual voters won’t.

  24. 24
    Culture of Truth says:

    No One Cares About the Deficit, Even Goshites Who Built Their Nutty Candidacies On It, Part the Infinity, (Feb. 19)

  25. 25
    Culture of Truth says:

    @Hal:

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression of multi-party systems is that the smaller parties always end up forming alliances with the largest parties.

    Eventually devolving into… a two-party system.

  26. 26
    Ian says:

    @Hal:
    Indeed that is the case. Ironically in some places like Israel and Hungary the far right smaller parties can actually hold the greater power over the more centrist right parties. Extreme policy demands get passed in order to hold the coalition together.
    Eventually the centrists get pissed, form a DLC style alliance with the other sides centrists, and hold the government for a short while until everyone gets pissed at the results of a government that doesn’t stand for anything.

  27. 27
    DWD says:

    Notice how half of those guys were wanking about a McCain-led third party, under the assumption that McCain wouldn’t win the GOP nomination in 2008.

    One wonders if our pundits ever get tired of being wrong all the time. Or whether they ever even notice.

  28. 28
    Culture of Truth says:

    I dunno about Lib Dem but if there was a Lil Dub party I might join.

  29. 29
    DougJ says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    Fair enough.

  30. 30
    Jeffro says:

    Isn’t it time for a People’s Front of Judea joke?

  31. 31
    jibeaux says:

    I think there could be a third party that wouldn’t win, but could operate as a very effective spoiler, and I think it would be to the right of the Republican party. An R party that wins will probably stay together in their current dysfunctional marriage of sniping and primary challenges and feuds and fake filibusters, but with everyone pulling the R lever in the end. But if and when the R party starts consistently, regularly, losing, because there just aren’t enough old white men to keep it going, what’s going to stop all those people who are convinced that they’re losing because they’re not pure enough from splitting into a Real Conservatives ™ party?
    There’s not going to be a centrist third party that’s even good enough to act as a spoiler because those guys have the charisma of cottage cheese. To this day I don’t know what Ross Perot stood for, but he was a character and he drew votes from his own cult of personality.

  32. 32
    Culture of Truth says:

    @Jeffro: or an Emo Phillips reference

  33. 33
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    Political parties in the US really play much the same role that multiparty coalitions do in parliamentary systems

    As a lad I remember Ted Kennedy and Ed Muskie sitting in the same Senate Democratic caucus as Herman Talmadge and John Stennis.

    We only have two labels, but there are definitely more than two party-like things.

  34. 34
    The Pale Scot says:

    The flat tax is actually workable if it is high enough, the catch is a high personal exemption.

    My idea is a 40% flat tax on all income earned and unearned with a personal exemption tied to the median regional income, say 50,000 for the NYC-NJ area, 15,000 for Miss. And because corporations are people too, Exxon gets the same exemption the steamfitter at the refinery gets.

    Deduct state taxes paid from the Federal tax owed, so that states are encouraged to provide services. Fund the War Dept. solely from a fossil fuel or carbon tax, the only credible reason to have the DOD we have is to “maintain global oil access”, the world needs open sea lanes to access our markets, why should American taxpayers pay to protect shipping that’s owned and flagged in foreign countries

  35. 35
    🎂 Martin says:

    I’ve emailed with Fallows about this. I don’t think he’s necessarily after some centrist party. I think he just wants Congress to work, and the current setup doesn’t work. A parliamentary system where nobody has a majority typically causes that to happen automatically. That necessitates at least 3 parties.

  36. 36
    Little Boots says:

    lack of responsibility is the be-all, end-all of politics. and punditry. see every discussion of 2016 for the next two years.

  37. 37
    Corner Stone says:

    @🎂 Martin:

    I’ve emailed with Fallows about this.

    Thank God you’re here Martin. Can you give us any further insight into what Fallows may be thinking?

  38. 38
    Steeplejack says:

    @TG Chicago:

    I will defend the use of the -tard suffix. Many pejorative terms in use today, such as cretin, lunatic, idiot, imbecile, idiot and moran moron, had “scientific” definitions in 19th-century and early 20th-century psychology. Those definitions fell into disfavor (rightfully) and are no longer used in the “scientific” sense, so now if you call someone a moron moran—as people do here on a daily basis—no one thinks, “OMG, you’re mocking the mentally disabled.”

    Retard/retarded is going through the same transformation; it is just a little farther back on the “euphemism treadmill.” Mentally retarded was invented in the mid-20th century to replace the earlier terms, and now it has been replaced—almost—by “intellectually disabled.” And disabled is already taking heat, but I digress.

    Retard might still be slightly radioactive, but I think -tard has been sufficiently neutralized by the yoots with their wacky slang. “He is such a ’tard, I’m sure.” If that wasn’t in Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl,” it should have been. And using it as a suffix, as in reichtard or teatard, makes it even clearer what is being mocked. And it’s not the intellectually disabled. At least not those intellectually disabled.

    Plus teatard is such a great, compact portmanteau word to describe what it describes.

  39. 39
    Jack the Second says:

    I read a blogpost somewhere (Krugman?) claiming that regressive taxation was the secret sauce in Europe’s social programs. All of the social programs are paid for by the VAT, which is regressive, so the billionaires don’t care and don’t fight tooth and nail against it.

  40. 40
    Corner Stone says:

    Hey DougJ,
    Any thoughts on Taibbi joining FirstLook?

  41. 41
    Chris says:

    The not-so-sad truth is that no one loves a triangutard.

    Third parties are never anything but the speaker’s fantasy of an America in which enough people agree with him to win an election.

    Thus, rich milquetoasts from New York and Washington fantasize about a Reasonable, Very Serious, moderate third party emerging from the center and are sure that all the citizens, who’re just as worried about those dangerous extremes as they are, will rally to it.

    While true believers of all stripes fantasize about a Real Conservative/Real Left-Wing party emerging that’ll replace the current crop of traitors and then crush the other party with all the disaffected voters that they know are just waiting for someone like them to lead them.

    Never happens, though.

  42. 42
    Little Boots says:

    good god, is this politics 101. nobody cares who calls himself a libertarian. it’s a bullshit word to most people, rightly so. it’s another word for republican. is this seriously confusing to most people?

  43. 43
    Mandalay says:

    @MikeJ:

    Lib Dems will never get anywhere near power again because all they got in return for putting the tories in was a tory government.

    It’s even worse than that. They reneged on campaign promises, and their support has deservedly plummeted since they became part of the coalition. Now, while still in power with the Conservatives, they are shamelessly trying to become BFF with Labour (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26222407), who will probably win the next election without needing help from anyone.

    They are devoid of principles – a piece of the action is all they want. And they’ll jump in bed with anyone to get it.

  44. 44
    Chris says:

    @Elizabelle:

    It makes me sad that some people who conclude (correctly) that the Republicans have jumped the shark cannot imagine themselves Democrats.

    Me too, but only a little.

    For example: a while ago I read the Facebook “politics” section of a friend who was dyed-in-the-wool evangelical RWNJ when I knew her. Instead of “Conservative,” there was now a pithy and meaningless quote showing how each side was part of the problem. Is it horseshit? Of course it is, but I don’t care. If she’s gone from “Republican” to “too jaded to vote at all,” I call that a win, even if she’s not voting Democrat.

    (Republicans understand this, which is why they do everything they can to depress the poor and working class vote).

  45. 45
    Little Boots says:

    @Mandalay:

    well, here in the U.S. they could get a damn piece of the action by actually giving a shit about the social safety net, and jobs, and stop dicking around with bullshit about the deficit. that would be a fucking start.

  46. 46
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Steeplejack: Michael Berube (who has a son with Down syndrome and has thought quite a lot about cognitive disabilities and their place in society) has argued that we ought to retire all insults based on mental ability, including “stupid.”

  47. 47
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    and are you angry?

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Steeplejack: You’re right that “tard” is going to lose its connection to actual human suffering eventually, but I don’t think that’s going to happen for people in “our generation” — those over the age of 35 or so, who lived through the Short Bus insult era. I try to avoid it because I’m just not young & hip enough not to remember it being used like faggot or bitch, as a weapon.

    I think the preferred category tag at the moment is ‘developmentally delayed’, but I’m sure people with closer ties to the community will correct me if I’m wrong.

  49. 49
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Chris: it’s kind of like waiting for a moral giant like MLK plus Gandhi + St. Fancis of Assisi to rise up and lead, and then when the character falls short, going back to waiting. We all have transcending dreams.

  50. 50
    Anoniminous says:

    To who can: do. Those who understand: teach. Those who can neither do nor understand become a Ron Fournier.

  51. 51
    Little Boots says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    all of whom were perfectly normal human beings. it does not take anything but an ordinary person to say fuck this bullshit.

  52. 52
    Jeffro says:

    @Little Boots: I don’t have quite enough anecdotes to constitute actual data, but yes, ‘most’ people – both those that consider themselves Libertarians and other 99.5% who don’t (nor pay attention to politics) – seem not to understand that Libertarian = Republican who doesn’t want to be tarred with the R label.

    I tried it on my Libertarian brother…he insisted he’s a Conservative who leans Libertarian. At which point I declared victory…

  53. 53
    Anoniminous says:

    @Chris:

    Me too. A vote less for the Republican is a vote we don’t have to match thus that Dem vote goes immediately to increasing the Margin of Victory.

  54. 54
    Chris says:

    @Ian:

    Ironically in some places like Israel and Hungary the far right smaller parties can actually hold the greater power over the more centrist right parties. Extreme policy demands get passed in order to hold the coalition together.

    Sounds like Republicans and teabaggers.

  55. 55
    Steeplejack says:

    @Little Boots:

    Not at all. Why would you think that?

  56. 56
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Corner Stone: what the hell is that about? Ezra Klein and this Taibbi fellow trying to cash in when yahoo or Facebook need a new acquisition target? not long now before Taibbi is killing his own chickens. (Was it chickens or goats with zuckerberg?)

  57. 57
    srv says:

    How about we call for a No Labels convention and then turn the security over to AQ.

    Problem solved.

  58. 58
    Steeplejack says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    [. . .] we ought to retire all insults based on mental ability, including “stupid.”

    How could such a society survive for longer than 10 minutes?

  59. 59
    Corner Stone says:

    @Anoniminous:

    Those who can neither do nor understand become a Ron Fournier.

    Talk about demoralizing. He’s far more wealthy and insulated than 99% of the commenters here, and/or their families.

  60. 60
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I don’t know. you seemed angry.

  61. 61
    Corner Stone says:

    @SectarianSofa: I…uhh…yes? No?
    I have no idea what the fuck you just said, little kid. But you touched my heart.

  62. 62
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Jeffro: Around here it seems like libertarians are just Republicans with shittier cars.

  63. 63
    Little Boots says:

    @Jeffro:

    and he votes Republican every damn time, right?

  64. 64
    Suffern ACE says:

    @srv: might work. A 45 minute speech from Bayh, and AQ will post videos apologizing for ever thinking we were evil when we were obviously just boring.

  65. 65
    Corner Stone says:

    @srv:

    How about we call for a No Labels convention and then turn the security over to AQ.

    This sounds reasonable to me.
    Martin? What are your thoughts on how Fallows and et al should move forward?

  66. 66
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Corner Stone: I’d expand on that, but typing on a tablet is pissing me off too much. Anyway, it was mostly balderdash, as you oldsters say.

    Oh, but here’s the goat/chicken reference : http://www.theguardian.com/env.....imals-meat

  67. 67
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Barry:

    The trick also is that Fournier isn’t pushing an eat-your-vegetables plan, but rather a ‘you get f-ed, the elites get richer, and then we come back later for more’ plan.

    And THIS is why Ron Fournier’s head would look MUCH better on a pike than on his shoulders.

  68. 68
    Little Boots says:

    i just wish taibbi would stop killing his damn chickens, or something.

  69. 69
    jl says:

    @Corner Stone: That sounds uncivil to me.

    But, for the debt hawks, I would be glad to have them form a third party.
    However, the bigwigs funding and organizing the party must show proof that they have paid off ALL of their personal and business debts. Any corporations or financial firms they own, run, or for which serve on the BOD, must certify that they are 100 percent debt free.

    I mean, c’mon, they have to show that they are serious.

  70. 70
    catclub says:

    @TG Chicago: How about Mustard? You got something against the bloghost?
    How are you going to hoist without petards?

  71. 71
    MikeJ says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Those definitions fell into disfavor (rightfully) and are no longer used in the “scientific” sense,

    It’s not “right”or “proper” that those terms fell into disfavor. It was no more pejorative to call someone a cretin than it was to say someone is “mentally challenged”. Lay people heard the technical term and applied it to people who did not have a clinical diagnosis but instead were just stupid.

    Any term that you use to be purely clinical or kind will eventually degenerate into slang for “someone who holds opinions I think are stupid.”

  72. 72
    Steeplejack says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Tard is somewhere on the continuum, and people can disagree about where. I guess my point is that it’s long past the point of a blanket prohibition. That horse has left the barn.

  73. 73
    David Koch says:

    I’m disheartened to read that Ron Brownstein and James Fallows have been on the third-party bandwagon

    Meh. That was in mid 2005. About the same time Cole was supporting Bush’s scheme to privatize Social Security. People can change.

  74. 74
    catclub says:

    @Jack the Second: Could be Yglesias. He has pointed out that highly progressive programs can be paid for with regressive taxes and the net is still fairly progressive.

    Public transit – that the super rich don’t even use. For example.

  75. 75
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    and this is a fight nobody can win.

  76. 76
    SectarianSofa says:

    @MikeJ:
    We also have to retire freak and crazy. The first insults carnival workers and the second, conspiracy nuts. I mean ‘buffs’.

  77. 77
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    Berube’s son is infinitely a smarter human being than any member of the tea party. That’s with the mental disability. Because the tea party people are being willfully, proudly, and profoundly stupid.

  78. 78
    Roger Moore says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    A multiparty system might provide more opportunities for people to vote without feeling like they’re horribly compromised.

    One of the really interesting things that’s happening now is people pushing various kinds of ranked preferential voting systems- instant runoff voting, Condorcet methods, etc.- that let people express preferences beyond their single favorite candidate. They let people express their true preferences without feeling that they’re throwing their vote away on an unelectable candidate, and reward candidates with broad appeal over ones with a small but dedicated following. I’m personally a fan of approval voting- vote for all the candidates you find acceptable, winner is the one who gets the most votes- because I think it hits the sweet spot of being easy to understand while still giving voters the freedom to express their choices.

  79. 79
    Steeplejack says:

    @MikeJ:

    You just described the “euphemism treadmill,” which I didn’t go into in detail.

    I said “rightfully” because (usually) once a term has oozed from the scientific definition into insult it begins to be seen as a liability on the scientific side and eventually gets retired.

  80. 80
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @catclub:

    How are you going to hoist without petards?

    The Force is my ally, and a powerful ally it is.

  81. 81
    Mandalay says:

    @Steeplejack:

    How could such a society survive for longer than 10 minutes?

    Just fine. As a society we are learning not to call women c**ts and b****es, we are learning not to call homosexuals f****ts and q***rs, we are learning not to call black people n****rs and c**ns. I am sure society will survive just fine if we drop the casual use of “tard” in all of its forms, and I think it will actually happen over the next few years.

  82. 82
    Scamp Dog says:

    @Steeplejack: When Mom would take me and my brother to visit our cousins, there was this really strange girl walking around the neighborhood. “Aunt Katherine, what’s the matter with Suzy?”

    She told us Suzy was mentally retarded, the polite term of the era (late ’60s, probably).I’ve forgotten what was the previous polite version that had become too insulting to use.

    We kids started using the term abusively, of course, in kid fashion: “You retard!” By the time I got to high school (mid ’70s) that had morphed into “you ‘tard”. That was about the time that adults realized what was going on, and decided that “mentally retarded” was too harsh. The new thing was to refer to “Special Education” students and classes. At our school, that was abbreviated SpEd, so those kids were labeled speds, and when somebody did something stupid, we’d say “you sped!”

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn’t be abusing the mentally challenged (not sure when that term came in or went out), but I’m skeptical that upgrading terminology is an effective way around the problem.

  83. 83
    Little Boots says:

    @Roger Moore:

    we should, but we won’t. we hate that kind of thing in this country. we really, really hate change.

  84. 84
    catclub says:

    @Roger Moore: “interesting things that’s happening now is people pushing various kinds of ranked preferential voting systems”

    Who? Where? How big a jurisdiction?

    So how about the people like Steve Forbes pushing flat taxes – he got whale of a lot more publicity than ANY
    ‘Lets completely change the voting system’ people that I have not even heard of.

    And Forbes got nowhere. There are plenty of others pushing flat taxes. The folks pushing changes to voting systems are invisible by comparison.

  85. 85
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Corner Stone:

    OK, I take back the oldster comment, because Pumpkin Escobar.

  86. 86
    jl says:

    @Roger Moore:
    @Little Boots:

    Welcome aboard, pards! I was flacking ranked preference voting the other week. I think Australia has been using it for quite awhile, at least in federal elections.

    Ranked preference voting is supposed to minimize voting anomalies, like third party candidates who are least preferred, messing with more popular ones.

    As for people feeling all ‘compromised’ wen they have to chose the lesser of the evils, my thoughts run to telling them to grow up and quit being an arrogant narcissistic jackass. But, I realize that kind of advice is not going to get anywhere with the grand eminence jerk nobodies who think that way.

  87. 87
    Scamp Dog says:

    @Steeplejack: Beaten to the punch, again. I like the “euphemism treadmill” term, though. Learned something tonight!

  88. 88
    NotMax says:

    @The Pale Scot

    The major problem with what you propose is that it contains such a myriad of conflicts (both real and potential) with the language in the Constitution relating to taxation (among them existing language addressing uniformity and apportionment, also whether differing geographical deductions fall under direct or indirect taxation and whether there exists authority to tie same to geographical income rather than population by state, and probably jiggering with the 16th amendment) that it would require a major retooling of that document and passage of multiple amendments, which pretty much takes it off the table.

  89. 89
    Little Boots says:

    @jl:

    yeah, issues.

  90. 90
    jl says:

    @catclub: In the U.S. some cities have ranked preference voting, or instant runoff voting, or some form of approval voting. it is controversial. Oakland CA does not like the result of their first go at it in the last mayoral election.

    I said I thought Australia had ranked preference voting and the Wikis says…

    Electoral system of Australia

    ” Australia uses various forms of preferential voting for almost all elections. Under this system, voters number the candidates on the ballot paper in the order of their preference. The preferential system was introduced in 1918, ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....ral_system

    I didn’t know it went back to 1918,

  91. 91
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    buddy.

    buddy.

  92. 92
    Steeplejack says:

    @Mandalay:

    You missed the point of the perhaps tepid joke. It wasn’t about which words are forbidden or not, it was about how can you have a society free of “all insults based on mental ability.”

  93. 93
    jl says:

    I wonder how many true white tighty reactionary patriots know that the secret ballot, printed up and authorized by Big Gummint(!) is a furrin import in these, our Great United States.

    Secret ballot
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_ballot

    Wiki says that while Kentucky was the last state to quit using the public oral ballot, the frist city to adopt the secret officially printed (i.e., Australian) ballot was Louisville Kentucky. That city must be commie. A damn fifth column that destroyed the voting the Founders intended (that is a joke,the Founders debated all sorts of voting systems). Anyway, wait till Rush hears about it.

  94. 94
    NotMax says:

    @NotMax

    Correcting small omission.

    Writing “passage and ratification of multiple amendments” was what was intended.

  95. 95
    Mandalay says:

    @Scamp Dog:

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn’t be abusing the mentally challenged (not sure when that term came in or went out), but I’m skeptical that upgrading terminology is an effective way around the problem.

    It may not be 100% effective, but it is a step in the right direction. The very act of making a word controversial forces people to think about why they are using it, and whether they should be using a better alternative.

    In very different ways, Richard Sherman and Michael Dunn have recently put a spotlight on “thug” as a sanitary form of N-clang. Well no more. You can bet that the next time anyone in the public eye describes someone as a thug it will get very close scrutiny, and heaven help them if it looks like they really wanted to use N-clang. And that change has happened in the past few weeks.

  96. 96
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    play a song.

  97. 97
    Steeplejack says:

    @Little Boots:

    Are you insulting me, you wretched blogtard?!

  98. 98
    🎂 Martin says:

    @Corner Stone: Nope. You know, if you actually try and converse with people, they tell you stuff. Its weird.

  99. 99
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    no, not trying to.

  100. 100
    Violet says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Many pejorative terms in use today, such as cretin, lunatic, idiot, imbecile, idiot and moran moron, had “scientific” definitions in 19th-century and early 20th-century psychology. Those definitions fell into disfavor (rightfully) and are no longer used in the “scientific” sense,

    These days people are using psychiatric diagnoses to describe people who may or may not have the actual diagnosis. “Sarah Palin has narcissistic personality disorder,” “My sister is totally OCD about her shoes,” “My brother is so bipolar about the Steelers,” “My roommate was totally depressed when she didn’t get tickets to One Direction.” People know the general behavior tied to the diagnoses and then use the diagnosis as a description of a specific behavior.

  101. 101
    Corner Stone says:

    @🎂 Martin: So, in that case, you’re telling us you have had interactions with Fallows. Which is what I asked about.

  102. 102
    Roger Moore says:

    @Little Boots:
    There are practical problems with using ranked preferential systems when you’re voting for as many offices as Americans vote for. We already vote for more offices than most people can keep track of, so asking voters to have a ranked list for that many offices, and to transfer that list accurately to a ballot, might be asking a bit much. It would certainly make things easier for people trying to deny poor people the ability to vote by denying their polling places adequate resources; if the lines are already hours long, think of how long they’d be if everyone had to spend several times longer on their ballots.

    @catclub:
    The big example of preferential voting is Australia, which uses Instant Runoff Voting in their federal elections. There are also at least a few cities in the US that use it for city elections, mostly in hippie-dippie places like the SF Bay Area and ski resort towns in Colorado. But it’s still obviously in the early stages and won’t necessarily spread beyond where it’s already established.

  103. 103
    Corner Stone says:

    @SectarianSofa: Oh, I may or may not be an old. Depending on the topic.
    But at least 95% of my comments here come from Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Anchorman, or Team America: World Police.
    So, it’s a specific category of old.

  104. 104
    🎂 Martin says:

    @Corner Stone: Yes, I’ve had numerous email conversations with him over the last maybe 10 years or so.

  105. 105
  106. 106
    Little Boots says:

    and blogtard is funny.

  107. 107
    Corner Stone says:

    JUSTICE!! Is Dead!…Or so Jay Thinks!!

  108. 108
    Mandalay says:

    @Steeplejack:

    You missed the point of the perhaps tepid joke.

    No, I got it, and I appreciated the argument in your earlier post, but another poster in this thread motivated me to look at Michael Bérubé’s argument, which I found very powerful and persuasive:

    So next time you’re fed up with someone and you want to call his or her intelligence or judgment into question, remember: you might be better off with insults that speak to the performance of intelligence or judgment rather than to capacity. This isn’t just a matter of politeness; it’s also a matter of proper English usage. Many, many morons and retards have very good judgment about some matters, whereas many, many ostensibly intelligent people make bafflingly, excruciatingly bad decisions.

  109. 109
    Mike in NC says:

    I’m convinced that 90% of the over 70 crowd in this fucking country miss the Jim Crow era and would gladly vote for any politician who would try to bring it back.

  110. 110
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    and I somehow knew you would post awesome.

  111. 111
    Corner Stone says:

    @🎂 Martin: I always wonder how you do it. You’re an amazing person, Martin. And a true patriot.
    Kind of like the Frank Underwood of Balloon Juice.

  112. 112
    Little Boots says:

    but I still hope you are okay, cause I like you.

  113. 113
    Steeplejack says:

    @Mandalay:

    No argument on that.

  114. 114
    Little Boots says:

    @Corner Stone:

    heh.

  115. 115
    Steeplejack says:

    @Little Boots:

    Yes, I’m okay. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge tone on a blog.

  116. 116
    catclub says:

    @Mandalay: A favorite insult I have heard is: ‘Ignorant son of a spavined camel’
    Is ignorant a measure of capacity or usage?

  117. 117
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    and I am being kind of a dick, but I do miss you.

  118. 118
    Sly says:

    How many divisions votes does Pete Peterson have?

    Political parties are the mechanism through which voting constituencies form coalitions and exert democratic force. No constituency, no party, no possibility of enacting its agenda via the voting booth. NoLabelsUnityAmericansElect will always fail because it doesn’t comprehend this basic fact. They’re better off just throwing money at the existing parties; this carries the added advantage of politicians being cheaper to rent than they are to buy.

    Libertarians don’t understand it, either, but at least they’ve wrapped themselves around an ideology that appeals to white men who are between the physical ages of 20 and 40 but never matured psychologically past the ninth grade. That demographic is at least good for a few million votes.

  119. 119
    catclub says:

    @Mike in NC: Are you sure? isn’t about 10% of the over 70 crowd made up of people who were discriminated against during Jim Crow? So 99% ( and possibly need 102% to get to 90% of all) of the over 70 whites? Seems a little high to me.

  120. 120
    Steeplejack says:

    @Little Boots:

    Heard this on Sirius the other day and thought of you. Don’t know if you like the long-form ’70s, but here you go.

  121. 121
    mclaren says:

    @Baud:

    Rule # 1 in politics (and life): Criticizing is easier than doing.

    That’s why third parties can’t succeed.

    Which explains why Britain and France and the Netherlands and Germany have no viable third parties.

    Oops.

    A parliamentary system encourages third parties (in fact, multiple parties) because parties can form coalitions after an election to gain a majority. America’s republican (small r) representative system is more based on the Roman model, which as we know encourages a dictator.

    And golly gosh and gee whiz, here we are in America with two presidents in a row ordering the kidnapping and murder and eternal prison detention of U.S. citizens without charges or a trial. And here we are with two presidents in a row presiding over limitless panopticon surveillance of all U.S. citizens, plus rampant militarization of police to the point where SWAT tanks and military assault rifles with grenade launchers are now standard equipment in even the smallest small-town police departments.

    Sounds like we’re heading the way of Rome, all right.

    Only a matter of time before one of our imperial presidents retires to the island of Capri and populates it with naked underage boys and girls.

  122. 122
    Jim Faith says:

    @Anoniminous:

    To who can: do. Those who understand: teach. Those who can neither do nor understand become a Ron Fournier. write about it.

    FIFY

  123. 123
    Little Boots says:

    @mclaren:

    but nobody changes that much, unless they have to. that is the thing. we will never change until we have to.

  124. 124
    Little Boots says:

    steeplejack you still here? are you mad?

  125. 125
    Roger Moore says:

    @jl:

    As for people feeling all ‘compromised’ wen they have to chose the lesser of the evils, my thoughts run to telling them to grow up and quit being an arrogant narcissistic jackass.

    I understand where you’re coming from, but I think you need to take people’s complaints about disliking the current voting system more seriously. The great strength of democratic government is the legitimacy it gets from the consent of the governed. That legitimacy is damaged if people feel that their opinions don’t really count because they’re forced into a choice between voting their conscience and having no real effect on the election and voting for the lesser of two evils. Proportional representation and preferential voting help that legitimacy because they let people both vote their conscience and feel that their vote matters.

  126. 126
    Steeplejack says:

    @Little Boots:

    Okay, now you’re baiting me. I will not be baited.

    Why don’t you start thinking about why Omnes is not here?

  127. 127
    Little Boots says:

    @Roger Moore:

    people can barely be bothered to vote at all. nobody cares. that is the big problem, here.

  128. 128
    Little Boots says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I do think about that.

    but I am not baiting you.

    I do actually like you.

  129. 129
    Roger Moore says:

    @catclub:

    Is ignorant a measure of capacity or usage?

    Ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge, so it may be a problem of opportunity rather than capacity or usage. We’re all born ignorant, so it has to be treated as the default position. Ignorance is only culpable when it’s the result of unwillingness to learn relevant, accessible facts, which would have to classify as a failure of usage rather than capacity.

  130. 130
    Roger Moore says:

    @Little Boots:

    people can barely be bothered to vote at all.

    Maybe people can’t be bothered to vote because they don’t see any candidates who adequately represent their views, and there are no candidates who represent their views because our winner takes all voting system encourages a two party system that has inherent problems reflecting the diversity of opinion in society. Structural problems with the system can show up in all kinds of interesting ways.

  131. 131
    kc says:

    @Mandalay:

    Well, goddamnit, will someone please just tell me what words are still acceptable for heaping verbal abuse on other people?

  132. 132
    Little Boots says:

    steeplejack, you’re not mad at me are you?

    you know how I get.

    specially, when I’m drunk.

  133. 133
    Gex says:

    @catclub: Well done on getting to use a word that ends in “tard” without having added it yourself! I don’t know if that was planned, but it was a fun little thing to run across as I was reading posts.

  134. 134
    Little Boots says:

    @Roger Moore:

    and we could change that, but we won’t. we really don’t care, is what it comes down to. we should, but we don’t.

  135. 135
    Little Boots says:

    so, anyone awake?

  136. 136
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Roger Moore: Yeah. I know americans believe a lot of things and they aren’t as consistent as one would like. They would like socialized medicine, but no taxes, or when polled they say they’d pay more taxes but then once their taxes go up, the polls say they were opposed to that. But I don’t think there is this large pool of untapped voters who don’t find something in the current parties to wrap themselves around. The 40% who aren’t voting may include the disaffected, but they are mostly just not into politics.

  137. 137
    Little Boots says:

    pretty, little love song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUL68ZeclcA

  138. 138
    Suffern ACE says:

    @kc: shit stain!

  139. 139
    Little Boots says:

    @Suffern ACE: @Suffern ACE:

    sadly, this.

  140. 140
  141. 141
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_ksYL26lZELittle Boots says:

    or this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_ksYL26lZE

  142. 142
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @Little Boots:

    Purty little love song! One of my favorites.

    I’m out. I’ve got to sleep.

  143. 143
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_ksYL26lZELittle Boots says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):

    well, fine.

    as long as you don’t hate me.

  144. 144
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_ksYL26lZELittle Boots says:

    and the important thing is, dancing in the moonlight:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMc8naeeSS8

  145. 145
  146. 146
    SatanicPanic says:

    Not many people want to think that hard, and those that do usually have the sense to think hard about something less inherently nonsensical.

    I don’t know why, but this is perfect.

  147. 147
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_ksYL26lZELittle Boots says:

    so, doug, what is with the obsessive moderation?

  148. 148
  149. 149
    KG says:

    Late to the party, but here goes…

    There are a lot of voters who believe that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the Rs and the Ds. And given that American politics are generally played between the 40s, that’s mostly true – in the grand sense of things. There’s no elected Democrats saying we should go back to a pre-Reagan tax code; there’s no elected Republicans really pushing the flat tax. We typically fight over changing marginal rates by 3-5%. Same can be said about defense spending, or education, or the budget. Nobody in elected office is even thinking of major changes, one way or the other – they’re nibbling around the edges.

    I vote for third party candidates from time to time. Sometimes it’s because I like what they have to say, sometimes it’s because the two major candidates are uninspiring, corrupt, morons. I don’t believe it’s a wasted vote – mainly because supporters from both sides tell me that I wasted my vote, and might as well have voted for the other guy. If both sides are selling the same line, then it’s probably bullshit – and really, it’s the only argument the major parties have against voting for a third party: we have all the power, come with us or be ignored. If enough people didn’t buy into that (for whatever reason), there’d be change.

    For a third party to work in the US, it would take a whole hell of a lot of work. First, an actual recognizable and mobilizable constituency would need to be identified. Then, you’d really have to start at the state level, win seats in the state legislatures, maybe a random congressional seat, then move on to statewide races (winning would also need to be necessary), and then eventually (after like 25 years or so) they might be able to have a viable presidential candidate. In the meantime, the best ideas from that third party would get picked up by either the Democrats or the Republicans, or even both – reducing the argument that voting for a third party candidate is worth it. Nor do I believe there is a constituency that is truly underserved by the two parties – the closest thing would be a socially liberal/fiscally conservative group. But it’s hard to even define fiscal conservatism anymore (most identify it with GWB’s borrow-and-spend tactics).

    I anticipated that the new jungle primary in California would lead to some third party candidates winning – a Green in SF or a Libertarian in OC or some such – but that hasn’t happened yet. We have seen some races where a third party candidate made it to the general over one of the major party candidates – but more often we’ve seen two Rs or two Ds in the general.

    As for unicameral legislatures reducing the power of the two parties, Nebraska has a unicameral legislature and it’s still all Rs and Ds.

    I think a proportional representation system would be interesting in the US. The problem is that proportional representation systems, as is common in continental Europe, requires strong parties. In our system, it really is more about the candidate than it is about the party. Typically a party in a proportional system needs to meet a certain threshold before it gets seats – 5 or 10%. And of course, coalition governments are typical. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it necessarily a good thing.

  150. 150
    Mandalay says:

    @kc:

    Well, goddamnit, will someone please just tell me what words are still acceptable for heaping verbal abuse on other people?

    Abuse relating to conduct and character are fine, but not abuse relating to inherent characteristics/limitations.

    So “chickenhawk” and “charlatan” and “asslicker” are fine, but “retard” and “fag” and “baldy” are not.

    But ad hominem away if the situation demands it.

  151. 151
    cckids says:

    @Steeplejack: That may be, but, as AL says, it will take a generation or so, especially to those of us who have a child who is, technically, mentally retarded. My son is 31, and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done is get used to hearing & accepting that label as what it is, and not as a perjorative.

    Every time I hear “thats so retarded” or “you’re a retard” it hits a still-raw nerve, because our whole family has heard it thrown at our loved one, or , in my other kid’s cases, used to mock them because of their brother.

    I’ve given up on trying to change people, even those I deal with all the time. I can only hope it will pass, as slang tends to do.

  152. 152
    PST says:

    I went back and read the Fallows article, and there’s no way it can fairly be characterized as putting him aboard the third-party bandwagon. It’s a dystopian fantasy written in 2005 in which he imagines a successful third-party candidate emerging in 2016 because the Republicans can’t govern and the Democrats can’t get elected. It takes the form of a cynical memo by a campaign manager to the third-party candidate. I had no sense reading the piece that Fallows regarded this as desirable. He puts most of the blame on the Bush tax cut for a revenue squeeze that “cocks the trigger” for economic ruin, but imagines the collapse occurring not in 2008 but in 2009, after the election of a Democratic president, who takes the fall. He concocts some imaginative contingencies that accelerate the downward spiral. The message of the exercise for his intended 2005 readers seems to me to be that we need higher taxes and greater public investment in infrastructure, which isn’t the usual centrist mantra. I vote Fallows innocent of the charges.

  153. 153
    Keith G says:

    @PST: I noticed that too. Just remember, Doug tends to not spend the energy to recognize nuance.

  154. 154
    Joey Giraud says:

    @Scamp Dog:

    Me too. Now there’s a good phrase to describe this effect. “euphemism treadmill”

    It’s impossible to prevent people with serious deficits from feeling badly about their situation. And those who feel badly for them aren’t helping by scolding others about their language.

  155. 155
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @jibeaux:

    To this day I don’t know what Ross Perot stood for, but he was a character and he drew votes from his own cult of personality.

    Perot had basically one major policy idea he flogged over and over, which was deficit hawkery. He wasn’t the only one; there were more seemingly serious things like the Concord Coalition that in retrospect were expressions of the Bloombergite centrist tendency, but I think Perot had a lot to do with the national debt becoming something ordinary people thought of as a looming disaster that would eventually hurt them or their children.

  156. 156
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Joey Giraud: You don’t think someone with a cognitive deficit is any better off without their situation being used as an insult? Read Berube’s stuff–his son’s situation was never anything like emotionally hopeless; he in fact wasn’t and isn’t always wallowing in bad feeling about himself, far from it.

    The thing about the euphemism treadmill is that it acts over long periods of time and is basically harmless in itself. Berube’s proposal is pretty extreme as these things go. But we’re not seriously impoverishing our language by avoiding terms that people consider insulting to innocent parties.

  157. 157
    Joey Giraud says:

    @Mandalay:

    Yeah, the quality of an insult reflects on the insulter.

    I don’t want mentally-challenged people to feel bad, and I don’t want to mock them, but I avoid the “-tard” suffix because it’s almost exclusively the domain of the linguistically-challenged.

    And next time I insult cassidy, I’ll have to up my game.

  158. 158
    Joey Giraud says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    You don’t think someone with a cognitive deficit is any better off without their situation being used as an insult?

    No. One of my fav quotes by someone: “there are few things so awful that they are not made worse by thinking them so..”

    But trying to eradicate insults? Browbeating people into being nice?

  159. 159
    Joey Giraud says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    What made Ross Perot’s signature rant so delicious was: Perot got rich off of sweetheart government contracts.

    Perot Systems is a den of nasty treachery. Personal experience.

  160. 160
    low-tech cyclist says:

    mostly because the phrase “first past the post” annoys me so much

    Me too. It implies a fixed ‘post’ that the first one past is the winner.

    That’s how an actual foot/road/horse/etc. race works. The political equivalent would be if people could vote anytime during an election campaign, but the first one to get to 1,000,000 votes wins the race, and the campaign is over once that happens.

    That would certainly be different.

  161. 161

    And there have been two parties since the founding of the Republic, the Democrats and the Whigs Republicans.

    Well, maybe not.

    Right now, neither major party adequately represents people under 30 or women. If the Republicans continue their slide to national irrelevance, it seems not impossible a new national party will be formed.

    Look to the 2020 elections. I expect the emergence of a coalition of progressives and tea party conservatives who figure out how to stand each other long enough to gather votes. Call it the Progressive Libertarian Party. This will not be the party that progressives have hoped for; it is going to contain strong anti-government elements, but it will support at some progressive policies, and it will be environmentalist. It may be enough.—Me, last April

  162. 162
    Berial says:

    One of the better explanations for why ‘First Past the Post’ always reduces to 2 parties came from this Grey guy on YouTube.

  163. 163

    That’s a good video, but Grey also thinks that Bitcoin and jury nullification are good ideas, which leads me to doubt his other work.

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