Republicans switching parties isn’t a good thing

What I run into occasionally in my facebook feed etc. are gleeful stories about some Republican or another switching parties because the GOP has become to extreme for him (so far, it’s always been a “him”, at least as far as I’m aware). And while I’m sure these stories are entertaining, and maybe even vindicate people in their opinion that the GOP has made an extreme shift rightwards, I don’t actually think this is a good development.

To explain this, let me backtrack a bit and first talk a bit about the U.S. political system and its parties a bit. The way voting is set up in the U.S. by its constitution, all of it is stuck at single-member districts in which candidates are elected to represent a region, not ideas*. As the wikipedia article notes, that tends to lead to two-party systems, with maybe an occasional 3rd party cropping up. Historically, in the U.S. 3-party situations tend to be unstable though and either an old party collapses, or the small 3td-party does, and either way you end up very quickly with only 2; and today even that much flexibility doesn’t exist, because the 2 parties are basically very rich and powerful political corporations, and the country is still suffering a 2000 election hangover and consequent allergy to everything 3rd-party. In other words, barring a complete collapse of the current political structure, the U.S. is stuck with the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party.
What this means in the context of Republicans leaving and becoming Democrats is that after all the “moderately” conservative people leave, the Republican party is not going to collapse under the mass of its epistemic black hole (at least not without causing the aforementioned collapse of the political structure), and the Democratic Party is not going to split into one moderately conservative and one progressive party**. Instead, by having people fall off the “left” edge of the Republicans and onto the right edge of the Democrats, the entire system shifts rightward even more, by making both parties just that little bit more conservative. And that’s just the obvious and immediate bad result. Another bad consequence is that when these former Republicans run for (re-)election, they will no longer be competing in primaries against other Republicans, i.e. people more to the right of them; they’ll instead be competing against Democrats, usually people to the left of them. That means whenever one of these guys ends up going into the general election, he does so instead of a more leftish candidate.

So what I’m saying is: unless these dudes have actually changed their minds and genuinely shifted leftwards rather than have the GOP shift rightwards away from them, I don’t want them changing parties; I want them to stay where they are and force the Republican party to be more like them and less like the teafucks. There’s nothing to celebrate when these guys change parties, because all that does is speed up the rightward shift of the US.

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* Although, my entirely non-lawyery reading of the U.S. Constitution failed to find a requirement for congressional districts voting for one representative; AFAICT the relevant parts (Article 1 Section 2; 14th Amendment Section 2) only say that the number of representatives would be determined by population in some way. For the states that currently have one representative this makes no difference, but there’s states with many representatives, and I’m not sure there’s a constitutional reason not to apportion a state’s seats proportionally after a state-wide election, rather than with district-level elections for a single representative.
OTOH, doing it that way would probably cause an even greater imbalance in the relative over-importance given to low-population states.
And while I’m at it, I’m not sure there’s a constitutional requirement for First Past The Goalpost voting, instead of preferential voting systems where you pick your top 3 candidates. Which could also help undo the 2-party-default, but are oddly unpopular at least in the media for some reason.

** Not that all people cheering at Republicans becoming Democrats necessarily think this, it’s just that believing something like that is one of a very few reasons I can think of to cheer this development. Some others I can think of are treating party politics like sports, and Rs leaving to become Ds means your team is winning; and thinking that Rs leaving means they’re becoming more moderate.

Booker T Washington — The Teabaggers’ favorite African-American

If you go back to the post about the Teabagger Magazine, you’ll notice that there’s an article about Booker T Washington in it. There is a reason that teabaggers would do this, and why they like this man. I wasn’t aware of this, because I didn’t, until last week, know shit about Booker T Washington. But I had to read one of his essays for class recently, and a lightbulb went on. So, I’m going to share what I’ve found out. I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to see why the teabaggers like him.

Booker T Washington was born in slavery, and he was very active in African American politics in the South, especially after Reconstruction, between 1890 and 1915. He was a very prominent figure, especially because he actually had a good number of white sponsors to his cause. This was primarily because of something called the Atlanta Compromise.

Here are some excerpts from and about his speech at the Atlanta Exposition, from his autobiography:

“The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in in an opera-house.”

“My own belief is, although I have never before said so in so many words, that the time will come when the Negro in the South will be accorded all the political rights which his ability, character, and material possessions entitle him to. I think, though, that the opportunity to freely exercise such political rights will not come in any large degree through ouside or artificial forcing, but will be accorded to the Negro by the Southern white people themselves, and that they will protect him in the exercise of those rights. Just as soon as the South gets over the old feeling that it is being forced by “foreigners” or “aliens”, to do something which it dies not want to do, I believe that the change in the direction that I have indicated is going to begin.”

“I believe that it is the duty of the Negro — as the greater part of the race is already doing — to deport himself modestly in regard to political claims, depending upon the slow but sure influences that proceed from possession of property, intelligence and high character for the full recognition of his political rights. I believe that the according of the full exercise of political rights is going to be a matter of natural, slow growth, not an over-night gourd-vine affair.”

“As a rule, I believe in universal, free suffrage, but I believe that in the South we are confronted with peculiar conditions that justify the protection of the ballot in many of the states, for a while at least, either by an educational test, a property test, or by both combined”

bonus quotes:

“then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe”

“To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, […] Cast down your bucket* among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South”

I’m not going to comment on what cultural work Washington’s accommodationist writing was performing during his lifetime, because I’m really not familiar enough with the political and social context. Suffice it to say that he did have contemporary African-American critics, most notably W.E.B. DuBois. However, aligning yourself with these sentiments today speaks volumes, and not necessarily in favor of those who do so, I think.

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*metaphor for seeking what you want where you are, instead of looking for it elsewhere

Dispatches from an alternate dimension

1)Apparently, the way to ease traffic congestion is not to build more public transit and get people to walk and ride bikes, but to build more roads (just ask LA). Because “For most Americans — make that most of mankind — the car is an instrument of mobility, flexibility and speed” (just ask the Dutch and the Danes)

2)there are palm trees growing in Wisconsin

3)Wisconsinite palm trees also involved in teabagger having to go for x-rays and treatment of injuries from 3 seconds of shoving. Teabaggers must be very fragile individuals, no wonder they like Medicare (and on a tangentially related note: to this German, anti-fascist skinheads are a novelty)

4)Corporations paying nothing in taxes means they’re paying too much

5)Also, did you know that Planned Parenthood is invested in promiscuity? Because everyone knows non-promiscuous people don’t need pap smears, birth-control, diabetes screening, UTI tests and treatment, mammograms, or testicular and prostate cancer screening,

UPDATE: In a moment of serendipity, The Young Turks posted a segment on the same topic a moment ago: Fox Lies

Visual Propaganda

we interrupt the regular programming for some Glenn Beck style “look, communist nazis!” comparisons (stolen entirely from here)

Exhibit A: the cover of the brandspankin’ new Teabagger Party Review
Tea Party Review

Exhibits B and C: the Communists and Nazis did it, too!
Communist Nazi

too bad no one is paying me millions of dollars to do this shit. It’s easy. Especially with a demographic that’s so devoid of self-reflection, they actually do use this sort of old-school emotionally emotive imagery. On purpose.

Election Day musings

Today is the day that we’ll find out whether the USA has completely fucking lost it and actually elect a large number of christofascist teabaggers into office, or whether some semblance of sanity prevails and most of them will not be elected (completely incidentally, this will also be the evening on which I decide whether I should take the extensive or the intensive route if/when I make it back to college in January :-p ).

According to this map, , teabaggers are running in 129 house and 9 senate races. Theoretically, that’s a lot of potential for fucknuttery. Luckily it seems that in a lot of the races, the teacandidate stands no chance of winning (This apparently includes Christine O’Donnell, who is some 20 percentage points behind the democrat, according to various pre-election polls). Still, they could win some of them, and if they win enough of them, especially some strategically powerful ones (Most notably the Reid vs. Angle Nevada Senate race), they could become an actual active voice in the government of the US.

And what then?

This article has been making the rounds in the liberal half of the internet (and if you need a right-wing “endorsement” for it, Jonah Goldberg (of “Liberal Fascism” and “Assange needs to be murdered” fame) hates it :-p). It’s based largely on this paper(pdf link!)* from 1998, which tries to usefully define fascism in a way that makes it possible to identify before it gets to the marching-in-lockstep stage. And what the paper identifies as the core identity of fascist movements (pp. 6-7; sorry no blockquote, my c/p from pdf doesn’t seem to work), seems eerily close to the christian-patriotic, anti left, anti-furriners, anti-intellectual core of the teadentity. Now, the alternet article identifies the current election as possibly that step in the development of fascisms beyond which there’s a point-of-no return. now, looking at the electoral map, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. The teabaggers can’t win enough to become overwhelmingly powerful just yet, and it’s possible that intra-part conflict will kill the movement in the next 2 years. But I can see how having them as part of a legitimately elected government is definitely a first step, with the 2012 and 2014 elections either killing them off or indeed becoming the point of no return. After all, the teabaggers have already started shaping US politics from outside the official structures. Once they’re in, the insane narrative that American values indeed are teavalues will become even more prevalent in the media. And we all know how well the democrats are able to withstand these narratives instead of fully buying into them.

So what’s the point of this post? Really only to slap my American friends over the head with it and remind them to not fucking fuck this thing up!!!!

Now excuse me, I have to drive the boyfriend to the nearest voting station

P.S.: sorry for the overuse of tea as a prefix. It just fit so well :-p

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*regardless of whether it’s relevant to the teabaggers, or whether the teabaggers will even be an issue after today, it’s a paper worth reading and keeping in mind for future reference. I really do think it captures the definition and development of fascism really well.

short thoughts

1)The Coffee Party is looking less and less appealing, and more and more spinelessly accommodationist. Most recent update was a link to an article that starts like this:

Before we call someone a racist, we should ask ourselves: are we moved to call someone a racist because we feel compassion for the victim or because we feel hatred toward the perpetrator?

Calling people racist shuts down conversation. Not that there isn’t racism is the world, but I believe most individuals do not deserve to be called that. Or, rather, many of us would deserve to be called that because we all have blind spots and very few of us have fully examined lives. It would be better to ask individuals to reflect critically on their assumptions and prejudices (which are really pre-judgments). And because we are human beings and fallible, we all have prejudices to check.

refusing to name the problem won’t help. Not that the sentiment isn’t very nice and all, but this sort of squishy stuff ain’t going to successfully push back against the unadulterated force of irrational fear and hatred that is the tea party.

2)UPS doesn’t ship to PO Boxes. Will someone explain to me again why these for-profit are seen as so much better than the good, old-fashioned US Postal Service? And on that note, a coffee company who uses socialism as a selling gimmick should use USPS instead UPS; it ruins the effect otherwise :-p

3)There’s going to be a teabagger rally in Washington DC on the 28th, the anniversary of the “I have a Dream” speech. Last time they descended on DC en masse, they ended up confused and frustrated with the public transportation system, so this time, one of their sites helpfully gave advice on how to handle the DC Metro. And it sounds like the sort of directions/advice my mom used to give me when I was eight:

If you are on the subway stay on the Red line between Union Station and Shady Grove, Maryland. If you are on the Blue or Orange line do not go past Eastern Market (Capitol Hill) toward the Potomac Avenue stop and beyond; stay in NW DC and points in Virginia. Do not use the Green line or the Yellow line. These rules are even more important at night. There is of course nothing wrong with many other areas; but you don’t know where you are, so you should not explore them.

here’s a map of the DC Metro, just to make this easier to visualize. Also note the fearmongering and willful ignorance displayed in the last sentence.

“I can’t be a terrorist, I’m human!”

One of the most consistent and disturbing aspects of the right wing is their demonization and dehumanization of their “enemies”. The poor are lazy leeches or other kind of vermin that needs to be kept from breeding, undocumented workers are illegals or aliens that need to be expelled or even euthanized, gays are abominations that need to be either turned “normal” or stoned, Muslims are terrorists that need to be bombed back to the stoneage, etc. For this reason, the most effective campaigns for civil rights are the many “Coming Out” campaigns that put human faces of neighbors, friends, family, etc. onto those vilified, up till then completely abstract and humanity-free groups. After all, even the most wingnutty wingnut, if he’s not a clinical sociopath, will find it harder to excuse the murder of an actual real human being.

What gets really interesting is when it’s the wingnuts that are accused of doing something bad. When the Homeland Security report on right wing domestic terrorists came out, a lot of teabaggers started carrying “I’m a domestic terrorist” signs to their rallies and protests, in a clear mimicry of the “Coming Out” campaigns. And similarly, on pandagon today there’s two threads about the fuckedup’d-ness and rottenness of libertarianism, and some troll decided to come by and talk about his personality, physical and personality attributes of some other libertarian he met at some libertarian conference, and how much human-like fun they had together (“he likes beer”, “there was free ice-cream”), and telling everybody who was criticising him and calling him an asshole that he’d buy them a beer, because then they’d maybe realize that he’s a sociable, nice guy.

And my reaction is, every time, “uh… ok… and that refutes the accusation, how?” The assumption by these right wingers that liberals don’t consider them human is pure projection, but more than that is going on. Because they themselves are convinced that terrorists and assholes and those they believe are working for the destruction of their civilization aren’t quite human, they assume that merely proving their humanity proves that they can’t be any of those things. Which just looks hilariously stupid, from this end of the problem, because liberals are usually quite aware of the fact that “terrorist” and “human” are not mutually exclusive. Liberals are quite aware of the fact that ruthless assholes have wives and children, and that terrorists have grandmothers* and pets and dayjobs**, and that both are, at least in principle, fully capable of “enjoying the small things in life”***. So putting a giant “domestic terrorist” banner on your bakesale stand, and posing with your octogenarian grandma and the golden retriever isn’t precisely any sort of argument; neither is saying that you enjoy having beers with people one. But they seem to really think that “I can’t be a terrorist, I’m human!” is some sort of valid argument.

Which is all sorts of fascinating, amusing, and really fucking scary, considering they don’t like atheists, liberals, feminists and foreigners much…

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*most blatantly presented whenever the fact that Hamas offers to provide for surviving family members of suicide bombers makes the news.
**some of them even become dusty old college professors
***which is why the apparent insistence of the right wing do destroy, forbid or punish everything fun (sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll) is often so baffling to liberals, that they willingly swallow the often strange excuses the right wing makes for it (most notably in the abortion debates; it’s rarely ever about babies, it’s about taking the fun out of sex. But many people accept the “precious babies” narrative, because the alternative just seems fucked up)

The Coffee Party

Still suffering from acute thoughtlessness, aggravated by meatspace drama, but didn’t want the blog to atrophy entirely, so here’s a light post on the Coffee Party Movement.

I heard of them for the first time quite a while back, but didn’t look deeper into it, since it seemed like an act of inconsequential counter-stupidity to the Tea Party, but apparently it has recently grown into a full-fledged movement (they even have a convention in Louisville, KY coming up; if it doesn’t get canceled, it will already be more successful than the teabagger convention in Las Vegas, which was “postponed” from July to October just a few weeks prior to the scheduled date “because of the heat”; yeah, right), so it’s worth looking into at least. I still think that, being a counter-movement, it will dissolve almost immediately the moment the teabaggers disappear, but as far as I’m concerned that could be a win-win situation: either the teabaggers will disappear; or there will be a pretty liberal/independent counter-movement to balance out their utter stupidity with some actual democratic activism.
The most interesting article about the Coffee Party that I found while trawling the internet for information about is was this blogpost by a centrist and former participant in it. It was interesting for the inside view of the Coffee Party (for a localized, supposedly decentralized grassroots movement, there’s decidedly too much talk about the leaders and leadership of “Coffee Party USA”) on the one hand, and for the odd perspective on non-partisanship/independence of the writer on the other, which I think reflects the perspective of a lot of self-declared centrists and moderates: that “independent” and “non-partisan” always has to mean standing exactly between the Republicans and the Democrats; being even slightly (or extremely, for that matter) to the right or left of that dividing line automatically aligns one with one of the two parties. This of course would be news to Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent Senator and a socialist, but seems to be how America views its politics; I blame it on the two party system. The blogpost complains about a perceived non-centrism of the Coffee Party, but quite frankly, I don’t think the U.S. needs more “bipartisanship” and centrism; what it does need is a real counterweight to the teabaggers, who are yanking the Overton Window sharply to the right. whether the Coffee Party can be such a things is, of course, a separate issue. Anyway, centrist dude also notes the lack of astroturfing and Big Donors, which is good; and the lack of transparency and “leaders” not listening, which is bad. The “unorganized” thing I’m ambiguous about, since I can’t tell whether he really means it’s a mess, or whether (considering his obsession with leadership), he’s just having issues with the sort of “netroots” anarchic, pseudo-organized movement that something that started on fucking Facebook has got to be by default, at least at first.

That aspect of both being a netroots spontaneous organization on the one hand, and being so focused on the founders and the leadership (though, admittedly, that might have just been centrist-dude’s bias, combined with the standard media focus on spokes-people and founders) makes me wonder whether sooner or later, this whole thing will morph into a standard-issue liberal “special interest” organization, or whether it can actually be an independent, glocal cooperative-like movement of people actually organizing around their own interests and needs that would lack the useless top-down management of issues and priorities. Most likely the former, because that’s how things generally develop, which would be too bad. Also, reading over some of the stuff on the Coffee Party USA website, at least some of the members take a similar stance on “independent” as the centrist I quoted earlier, i.e. they have shallow, middle-of-the-road opinions and commit the fallacy of the golden middle a lot. I mean, really, WTF does “I am not for a smaller government or for a large government. I am for right sized government. I am not for no regulations for businesses nor am I for a lot of regulations to manage the businesses. I am for enough, but not too much. I am not for government to cut all spending nor am I for spending wildly, but to spend where it is necessary.” even mean? it’s completely pointless rhetoric that tries to score points on the “I’m not an extremist like those people” talking-point. meh.

Also, I’m now getting their updates on facebook, and they’re strangely naive. Complaining about Murdoch Media offering infotainment? That’s… weaksauce. Real information sources exist, but expecting the mainstream media to be any good at it, especially in the face of shrinking profit margins and the downsizing on correspondents, investigative reporters, etc. is “political outrage 101”, so to speak. At the same time though, there’s some encouragingly effective activism going on, and at least, it provides a convenient set of activism tools for beginners, which is something I always thought was sorely missing. How to be an activist seemed to be one of those arcane skill sets one acquired by latching on to other, experienced activists (where one would find these experienced activists has of course also been unclear; not like they advertise in the Classifieds section of the paper). Now everybody can figure this stuff out, at least at the basic level.

So, as a whole, the Coffee Party is pretty weak brew (sorry, bad pun), but probably an excellent starting point for newly engaged/enraged people who want to become more active in their own democracy. If this becomes a mainstream-ish movement, and if even a small fraction of Coffee Partiers continues their journey into Advanced Activism, that will be a pretty good result, I think.