Left Wing Fundamentalism

It was certainly not my intention to get political on this site (I have another blog site where I get political) but this year there is a phenomenon that crosses the line from politics into religion.  There has been a lot of attention on third party candidates because of the less than likable nature of the two major party candidates.

For the record, I find that Gary Johnson’s libertarianism might be appropriate for the 18th century, but just doesn’t cut it in the corporate age.  I agree with many of the positions of the Jill Stein and the Greens, but they are not in any way an organized, effective political party.  Well, same with the Libertarians as well, and I would never vote for either person for President.

Even though I would say that I often agree with Jill Stein’s political positions, I wish she would sit down and shut up.  I find her campaign completely illogical and frankly, insulting.

The latest example comes in a Salon piece, which quotes her in the lede as saying, “Democracy needs a moral compass.”  This is ludicrous.  Democracy is a technique, a way of organizing people.  It cannot have a moral compass.  Only the people who practice democracy can have a moral compass.  I am further bothered with her implication that “We the People,” when we do not act in the oh so pure way that Stein does, that we are lacking in a moral compass.  This is exactly what you would expect Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, Jr. to say.

I am not quite sure if this is just smug moralizing or the same kind of delusional thinking that lead Donald Trump to declare that he — and only he! — is the solution to all of our problems.

The article further says that Stein said that her platform is “is an emergency job program that will address climate change and will create an emergency transition to 100 percent renewable energy.”  Hmmm…Emergency this and emergency that.  Actually sounds kind of un-democratic to me.  This is how dictators often take over in other countries, finding an “emergency” that requires a brutally efficient fix.  “I’ll just do this for you now and we can work out the niceties later.”  Stein seems to think of herself as some kind of philosopher king, that if we would just give her the reins of country for a few years, she will just patch everything up perfectly in her image.
But the sad reality is that she apparently has no clue as to how things actually work in our republic (we are not a democracy, by the way.)  If we are to have a massive jobs program and renewable energy program, where does that have to come from?  Congress of course.  Have such things been proposed?  Of course they have.  Went no where.  Ask Obama what you can get done when Congress is against you.

So how many Greens are in Congress?  None.  Here is Wisconsin, the Greens are “supporting” four local candidates.  They cannot even fill out their own state governing committee here.  They can’t get a decent number of local candidates, cannot even fill out their own organizational chart and Stein thinks she is going to push a New Deal style jobs and energy program through Congress?  Don’t make me laugh.

If, as Stein says, the future is not in our hopes or dreams, but in our hands, then let her and the Greens get themselves a functioning political party.  Senate candidates in every state, a Green for every congressional district.  Until then she is just a delusional hoper and dreamer.

Now, some will say that we need other parties to push back against the two main parties that have “sold out.”  While I agree that our current political climate has plenty of problems, I have to take issue with the idea that both parties are “just same,” “equally corrupt” and have “sold out.”falseE

This just the fallacy of false equivalence.  Yes. both parties take corporate money and billionaire money.  But do you really think that Elon Musk and the Koch brothers are “just the same?”  What each party seeks to achieve with those donations is very different, and claiming otherwise is just disingenuous.  Just as an easy example: do you really believe that Antonin Scalia and Thurgood Marshall were “just the same” on the Supreme Court?  Which is a Democrat more likely to nominate?  A Republican?  You can’t argue that both parties are “exactly the same.”  (And just for grins, even if you believe that Stein would nominate, say, Noam Chomsky to the Court, how in the hell would she get him confirmed?)

The same with “selling out.”  We all sell out to one degree or another.  The college I teach at now insists that all teachers use the same curriculum elements.  Same assignments, same grading scale.  I don’t think they are that great.  Am I selling out by continuing to teach there?  Maybe, but at least inside the system I have a better chance of effecting change.

Whether we like it or not corporations are part of our democracy.  They have a right to do business here and the people who run them have a right to participate in the political process.  The question is not whether but rather how.  Stein, in that sense is like a fundamentalist — all or none.  In her case none.  I find it ironic that her followers are denouncing corporate influence by tweeting from their iPhones over the AT&T network.

Fundamentalism, that is to say rigidity of thinking, is just as bad in politics as it is in religion.  For that reason alone, I think no one should vote for Jill Stein.


  1. khms says

    no clue as to how things actually work in our republic (we are not a democracy, by the way.)

    Sadly, I’ve yet to see any explanation that makes any sense of this often-repeated formula – so far as I can tell, these are two names for the same thing these days (one Latin, one Greek).

    • that guy on the internet says

      Sadly, I’ve yet to see any explanation that makes any sense of this often-repeated formula

      The formula comes from textbook high school civics and takes “democracy” to mean “direct democracy,” and “republic” to mean “representative democracy.” It is kind of arbitrary, but it’s not without historical roots.

      Remember that from ancient times to the turn of the nineteenth century, “democracy” was a term of abuse, not praise. It connoted mob rule…and expropriation of the rich by the poor. So at the time of the American founding, nobody but nobody wanted to be seen as advocating “democracy.”

      The term “republic,” on the other hand, connoted the institutions of ancient Rome between the end of the Roman monarchy and the beginning of the Empire. That is, an aristocratic Senate with the authority to appoint co-chief executives (the Consuls). In normal times, executive authority was shared by two co-equal Consuls, so there was literally no single person “in charge.” (During periods of emergency — i.e. impending invasion — the Senate also had the authority to appoint a Dictator for a fixed one-year term, thereby unifying military command for a defined period of time.)

      In practical terms, the eighteenth century question was: monarchy or republic? That is, shall we have a king or not? (At the same time, the question of what “having a king” actually entailed was also complex — the position and powers of the King of England were quite different from those of the King of France, for example.)

      “Democracy” was a charge hurled at republicans, the argument being that “no king == mob rule.” Hence republicans countered that “republic != democracy”. And down to this day, we still sometimes say “we have a republic, not a democracy.”

    • anat says

      Well, not all democracies are republics, some are constitutional monarchies. And not all republics are democracies, some are tyrannies of one kind or other. But the US is on the intersection of the two terms.

  2. says

    I’ve no comment on Stein specifically, the point about the ineffectual nature of the presidency is well taken. Though that does make me wonder why everybody’s so worked up about a largely symbolic position. I think it’s slightly disingenuous to task the Green party with constructing a political machine without at least a nod to the fact that there are a limited number of politically active and engaged individuals, who are naturally drawn to the two major parties. So long as you have a two party divide, blue and red will have a devastating advantage over any other movement.

    More to the point, I’d like to say that those people who use the phrase ‘they’re all the same’ are probably making a more nuanced point than is immediately apparent, which is that regardless of the differences between the two parties, so long as neither acts in the interests of the voting public the US doesn’t effectively have a democratic government. It’s demonstrably true that the vast majority of votes in both houses are in favour of the corporate interests which grease the wheels of government. That’s not likely to change whether you vote red, or blue, or green or not at all. There are a lot of people in the US right now whose major overriding political issue is that their voices, and yours, are silent. It’s hard to see that any aspect of politics matters more, though of course if it’s not going to change anyway, you might as well vote for the person least likely to cause a nuclear Armageddon.

  3. that guy on the internet says

    There are a lot of people in the US right now whose major overriding political issue is that their voices, and yours, are silent.

    That’s a fair point. Although I would argue that that is a feature of the system, not of the individuals who happen to be elected. Which is why the idea that voting for candidate X will change the system is fundamentally broken. The system selects and alots power to candidates, not vice versa.

    Now, changing the system at the federal level is extraordinarily difficult — and in some respects very nearly impossible. (For example, Montana cannot be deprived of its equal weight in the Senate to California without Montana’s consent…which is unlikely to be forthcoming.) However…

    At the state level, things look very different. Amending the constitutions of many states is embarrassingly easy. And that, I think, is how real reform will begin. Crucially, it is feasible: all we have to do is win a single statewide initiative campaign in any one of the fifty states, which we know we can do. And, once accomplished, it would provide a key piece of evidence that reform (in whatever shape it happens to come) can actually make things better. (Think of it as the opposite of Sam Brownback’s Kansas experiment.)

    So let’s get to it….

  4. deep6 says

    @that guy on the internet: Are you suggesting Montana give up that power? The intent of the Senate was to allot 2 senators to each state, so that there would be equal representation. The purpose of the House of Reps was to allot population-based representation (e.g. weighting). I have no idea why you’re using that as an example, but this apportionment of representation is constitutionally mandated.

    @OP — at one point not more than a couple years ago, even Noam Chomsky argued both parties were essentially the same, and pointed out (obvious) differences in social policies he considered to be fairly minor (e.g. women’s rights, LGBT rights, and so on). He always focused on American militarism and how it’s fundamentally no different under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. It’s only been recently that he’s changed his tune on that, to draw a drastic comparison between the parties, and even then only specifically on the issue of climate change. He still casually mentions issues of gender, race and sexuality as being minor wedge issues between donor-controlled parties. When the preeminent foreign policy intellectual of the left is himself repeatedly drawing parallels between the parties, it’s hard to blame less noteworthy and cerebral liberals for doing the same thing. (Independents and the politically apathetic are a different story. To them, the issue is not the truth of the parties’ policies but general cynicism toward a political system they have no interest in helping fix in the first place, that they’d rather just complain about.)

  5. that guy on the internet says

    deep6 wrote:

    I have no idea why you’re using that as an example, but this apportionment of representation is constitutionally mandated.

    I used that as an example because it is not only constitutionally mandated but unamendable. My point being that (a) changing the system at the federal level involves amending the U.S. constitution; (b) amending the constitution is hard; and (c) amending away at least one major defect (equal representation in the Senate) is literally impossible. Article V, which defines the procedures for amending the constitution specifically provides “that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” Montana I chose more or less at random — with about 0.3% of the U.S. population, Montana voters “count” for about six times as much as the “average” voter in the Senate.

    Make no mistake: if the U.S. Senate were anything but constitutionally mandated, it would be illegal under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is a profoundly anti-democratic institution…but we’re probably stuck with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *