Dennis Perrin is unhappy with “libloggers” (liberal bloggers) whose campaign against Bayh for Obama VP he finds hypocritical:
Dennis Perrin: Opposed Until They’re Not
Gee, I don’t recall this kind of liberal concern about John Kerry in ’04, who voted the same as Bayh, and made the same insipid excuse that he was “duped” into backing the US invasion. No matter. That was then, and today is now, and five can get you fifty if you mark the cards right. This is why I support an Obama/Bayh ticket. Not only would it help erase the liberal fiction about Obama’s “break from Old Washington,” it would force these concerned Dems to back the ticket without dissent, which they will in a heartbeat. Indeed, no matter who Obama picks, libs will proudly slap that bumpersticker on every available surface, suddenly finding the Dem ticket to be the best ever — until the next best ticket ever, and so on.
What’s also funny about all this is how liberals overlook Wesley Clark’s early support for the Iraq war, whatever his tactical differences were before the invasion, and his open belief that Saddam sat upon stockpiles of WMD. (I won’t linger on Clark’s killing of a couple thousand Serbians, as many libs support that type of bloodshed.) Then there’s the Clinton/Gore support for the Iraq Liberation Act, which Clinton signed in 1998. Somehow, that doesn’t tarnish their reputations as it has Bayh’s. Oh, and did you know that Bayh worked closely with Joe Lieberman? Yes, the very Lieberman who liberals overwhelmingly desired as their Vice President in 2000, and who, if libs had their way, would be second-in-command this very moment.
Though he raises valid points (especially the unanimous approval of the attack on Yugoslavia by the Clinton administation), I think Dennis is making a caricature of the position and reasoning of liberals. I am not in agreement with the reasoning and tactics of the liberal/progressive spectrum, ranging from the centrist variety to those leaning a tad bit to the left (this latter group are the targets of Dennis’ post). My disagreement however stems from my belief that a just society can only be achieved from and via first principles, solidarity and social action. On these counts, I find liberals and the “netroots” wanting, but not so on the grounds of consistency that Dennis finds fault with.
Dennis is angered by the opposition to Bayh on grounds that should, when applied fairly, also disqualify Wesley Clark, John Kerry or Joe Lieberman. Dennis suggests that all three of these men find great and unquestioning support among liberals and “libloggers”. However, this does not seem to be the case at all. For instance, in a race where all three of these men were candidates for the Demoratic nomination, the emerging Internet based liberal sites favoured Howard Dean. Similarly, in the 2008 primaries, a significant bit of liberal opinion tilted towards John Edwards, redeemingly enough, for his emphasis on class issues.
Here for example, is Matt Stoller of OpenLeft on Wesley Clark for VP:
Clark also emphasizes Obama’s strengths. He is popular among grassroots progressives, he was against the war in Iraq from the get-go, and he is an outsider to politics. He also demonstrated terrific political judgment in being willing to work against Lieberman in 2006, unlike, say, Tim Kaine, who endorsed Lieberman for President in 2004.
The point of difference here seems to be a factual one (Dennis believes in “Clark’s early support for the Iraq war” while Stoller thinks Clark “was against the war in Iraq from the get-go”). It is also doubtful that there was an overwhelming desire among libreals for Lieberman as VP in 2000, as Dennis suggests. Rather, given the acceptance among liberals of the Democratic party as the only way to achieve any goals, support for the parties candidates is an act of wilful optimism among them.
And that is the crux of the issue. Despite their occasional incoherent mumblings about Noam Chomsky (Stoller calls him the “intellectual elite” who has “brilliantly marginalized” himself — this about the only man who has in the past 30+ years been publishing accessible and often best-selling political analyses without which any shred of political consciousness among the non-right-wing public would arguably be non-existant), the coherent position of liberals and progressives is a gradualist one that attempts to balance long-term goals against potential short-term significant losses. This issue is often posed in the form of questions regarding immediate and critical junctures, such as the appointment of justices to the Supreme Court.
I have intentionally ignored, thus far, the much larger issue of ideological and foundational differences between liberals/progressives and the left. These are significant and contribute to the different choices, tactics and claims employed by each group (insofar as we can even suggest that a “left” exists). Nonetheless, such differences, even if they turn out to be resolved in favour of the “left” and against the “liberals”, do not support the contention that the liberals are acting hypocritically. Similar to the factual difference regarding Clark’s position on Iraq, these would constitute theoretical differences that would validate one or the other position — in which case the invalidated one would merely be wrong, not hypocritical.
IMHO, Dennis is right to take to task the liberal blogistan for its lack of serious thought to such events as the attacks on Yugoslavia (or Afghanistan, for that matter) — but not so because it exposes them as inconsistent — but because it demonstrates the self-imposed limits of their critical analysis. It would also help if Dennis were to differentiate between liberals of different stripes, from the Madeleine Albrights, and the Berubes and Siva Vaidyanathans (the academic elite, as Stoller might say), to the many flavours of liberal bloggers, commentators and readers. They are not all the same, even if they find some common ground on a Facebook group.
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