Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

My Tabloid Friend on Facebook posted the above cartoon to his feed today. I've been wondering why. Does the cartoonist believe that voting constitutes all the 'doing anything about it' a citizen ought to do? Possibly. I took it as one more Democratic whine about the professional leftists who do nothing but complain about what we think Obama didn't do, and made all the voters stay home in November 2010. I wish I had such power, but it can't be repeated too often that it was Obama and his fellow Democrats who discouraged the voters. I voted, even though I knew it was an empty gesture, except to enrage Obama loyalists who took for granted that as an Obama critic, I must be a lifelong nonvoter. What can you do with such irrationalists except infuriate them?

Certainly Tabloid Friend doesn't think that simply voting is enough. We should all be out there working for Barack, who if we just give him the chance will change our lives. We should be doing fund-raisers, working phone banks, canvassing door to door, and especially not criticizing the President in any way. For the past couple of weeks, especially, TF has been working himself into a lather of fury against all infidels (for they are many, ranging from the antichrist Ron Paul to enemies of the faith like Glenn Greenwald. Predictably, he (and many many other Obamaphiles) misread Greenwald's Saturday column on Ron Paul as an endorsement, but I can excuse that since he was no doubt too blinded by tears at Greenwald's iniquity to read the actual text.

TF also accused Greenwald of "concern trolling," which means he either doesn't know what concern trolling is, misread Greenwald or -- quite possibly -- both. Such misreading is a pattern: TF wailed last summer that Greenwald wanted to impeach Obama and "wanted a Republican President instead" (as though Joe Biden, who would become President if Obama were removed from office, was a Republican), and more recently put up a fury of links to Obamarista attack sites which misrepresented the bill (here, for example) and claimed falsely that Obama threatened to veto the National Defense Appropriation Act because he opposed indefinite detention; but the White House's own statement of reservation (which these sites incautiously linked to) complained that the bill would limit the Executive's ability to decide whom to detain by imposing due process on him. Even Jon Stewart, a longtime Obama fan, understood what that meant.

TF also doesn't seem to think that organizing and campaigning and voting for the candidate of your choice is a good thing, unless that candidate is Barack Obama. Do the devotees of Paul and Santorum and Bachmann and Perry and Cain get credit because they didn't just sit around and whine and complain, like some people? Of course not. They're stupid and vicious and gullible, unlike the Obama loyalists, who are skeptical and critical but can't you see that there's a campaign going on and we have to support the President or McCain will rise from the dead and invade the Oval Office and eat our brains and then where will we be? Our civil liberties will be gone and there will be endless war and a dead economy, that's where!

I haven't had much to say about Ron Paul here because I don't think he's important. He represents only part of the rightwing fringe, and I don't think there's much danger that he will get the Republican nomination, let alone win the election. If that were to change, I might write about him more, but post-Iowa it still doesn't look likely. Yes, he has some positions -- on US war, on civil liberties -- that I agree with, but so did a Stone-Age racist like Pat Buchanan, and I wouldn't endorse him either. I don't believe that Paul has really put these issues on the media radar, because most of the attention he's been getting has been focused on his worst aspects, and are we really seeing a broader range of debate in the corporate media because of Paul's modest successes on the campaign trail? Of course not; the corporate media don't work that way. And you don't have to be a Libertarian to oppose the Endless War, or the War on Drugs, or Obama's enhancement of the surveillance state. Paul deserves no particular credit for taking those stances; he certainly doesn't own them.

Besides, Paul is a Libertarian -- big L, not small l -- and that shouldn't be forgotten. Avedon Carol beat me to a number of things I was going to say about him, and said them better:
Sure, his "libertarianism" seems to be limited to a "states rights" fallacy (it's okay for individual states to destroy your freedom, it's just not okay for the federal government to do it) and then only on certain issues (obviously, not reproductive freedom, a fairly crucial one), but then, I haven't seen any evidence that Obama and his cadre of money-grubbing warmongers care about those freedoms at any level. And while Paul advocates ghastly economic policies, so do the people who currently occupy the White House. And yet, while Obama's supporters would draw the line at raping a nun on live TV (sorry, Glenn, but that's in the "dead girl/live boy" category), they are still happy to support him despite the fact that he is deliberately dismantling the American economy and every feature that might have saved you and yours from various kinds of slavery and unnecessary death. (And, you know, though I can tell you from experience that being raped is seriously unpleasant, it really isn't the worst thing that can happen. I mean, be honest: Given the choice between watching your children die because Obama managed to derail the creation of a decent health care system or seeing Obama rape a nun on live TV, which would you rather have him do?) But, you know, what really burns is that the only person saying these perfectly sane things about stupid wars is a right-wing crackpot, because there is no one in the allegedly liberal leadership saying it. And for that alone, those people deserve to be locked up someplace where they will feel forced to scream about their civil liberties and rights as Americans.
Greenwald seems to have struck a nerve with Roy Edroso, who still couldn't quite bring himself to gaze into the abyss.
In comments, Greenwald says -- very graciously, I would add -- that he did lay out the problems with Paul in his italicized "honest line of reasoning" that a hypothetical pro-Obama liberal would take. I am tempted to say that I didn't credit this because Greenwald had put it in the mouth of a fictional character with whom he doesn't agree, and so I did not consider it his own point of view; but to be honest, my eyes were too filled with blood to read carefully after I saw my own point of view characterized thus: "Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason..." Jesus, Glenn, why not add "Mwah hah hah" and "Pathetic humans! Who can save you now?" while you're at it?
Hm. Obama loyalists have no trouble accusing Obama's critics of being willing -- indeed, eager -- to have a Republican in the White House, or accusing "progressives" who praise Ron Paul for his stances they like of embracing his other repulsive positions but they blanch at the thought that they are also stuck supporting Obama's most monstrous actions. "Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America's minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason" isn't a caricature of America under Obama: it's an understatement of the reality, and one that Edroso spends very little time on. (But then his blog is dedicated to mocking the Republican fringe, not to covering the news.) This is the same syndrome I've so often noticed with right-wingers I've known: they like to think of themselves as hard-nosed realists, but when their noses are rubbed in the horrors their government is committing with their tax dollars, they turn green and look away, and by the next time I see them, they've forgotten everything and have to be reminded all over again.

(By the way, under that same post at alicublog, two different commenters objected to the term "Obama loyalists," denying that they were any such thing. One of them is new to me, but the other was the same person who writes things like:
Whatever my feelings about Obama's centrism I've got to say that he and Michelle really adorn the White House. As a couple they are just...well...magnificent and the children are fucking adorable (same age as my two so I really feel for them). The huffpo lineup of former first ladies and their dresses at these state dinners was like the evolution of humanity from grotesquely old and billowy faux victoriana to blooming, statuesque, youth.
I've never seen her actually criticize anything Obama has done, except in the dismissive way she brushes aside "Obama's centrism." I'd hate to see what a loyalist would sound like, if she isn't one.)

Not that I entirely blame them, or Edroso. I don't like to think about innocent people being killed and maimed and tortured either. Nor am I claiming moral superiority here, an ability to confront evil without flinching. I flinch all the time. But I can't seem to make myself forget or ignore these things. (Just as I don't read alternative media because I have self-discipline and lots of free time: it's because I don't have enough time to spend much of it on the corporate media.) Call it my weakness; I've been called worse.

Greenwald and Avedon also pointed out that we're seeing the consequences of a permanent campaign season. Back to Avedon:
It's now almost permanent election season, which means that we always have to be in partisan mode and never discuss actual issues. We can never acknowledge that maybe a guy on Our Side is promoting bad positions because to do so would give aid and comfort to the Bad Guys on The Other Side. Almost from the moment he got into office, we've been told we can't criticize Obama because it would help the Republicans. We also can't ever admit that someone who isn't a Democrat might actually have a better position on some issue than Obama does. We can't be honest about what's really going on because it might help the Republicans. But it's true that, no matter how wrong and repugnant (and dishonest or stupid) he is on many other important issues, Ron Paul is the only one who seems to have sensible positions about the war and secrecy regime.
To repeat: to say this is not to endorse Ron Paul. It's to recognize that a lot of people are deeply invested in squelching the discussion of "actual issues" because it's all about Our Side and the Other Side. It's probably not a coincidence that Tabloid Friend and Roy Edroso and many other Obamaristas are big sports fans, though TF spends more time flogging sports than Roy does. You cheer for your team/candidate/party because it's your team/candidate/party, and you boo the other team/candidate/party because it's the other team/candidate/party. There's a difference, though: you can criticize TF's favorite teams and he won't freak out as much as he will if you criticize Obama. Before long we're going to see fans on both sides lamenting that the media and the bad guys on the other team/party are reducing everything to personalities, that they refuse to address the issues. And they'll be right, except for their refusal to see that they're also talking about themselves.

Anyway, it seems to me that Ron Paul is a distraction. The Obama loyalists love that distraction; I'd rather not make it easy for them to evade the issues.