Friday, May 5, 2017

You say you want an honest conversation

Well, you know, we all want to change the subject...

Fantasy baseball cards? Via Topps Archives.

My favorite political scientist, Corey Robin, senselessly trolling me again:
Susan Sarandon says Trump’s election may help the revolution. Liberals scream, “IRRESPONSIBLE!”
The Democrats say that Trumpcare’s victory in the House will help the Democrats in 2018. Liberals say, “Strategy.”
Bernie Sanders says abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test. Liberals cry, “SOCIALIST CLASSBRO HATES WOMEN!”
Nancy Pelosi says—twicesecond time even more strongly—abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test. Liberals say…almost nothing at all.
It’s almost as if we’re not really having an honest conversation about our disagreements.
It's almost as if Corey would prefer not to have an honest conversation about our disagreements.

Sarandon's celebrated remark (in an MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes)—

Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in then things will really, you know explode
is not precisely equivalent to members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus singing "Na na hey hey goodbye" as the House Republicans sent the World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017 American Health Care Act to the Senate for whatever sorcery they want to work on it over there:
  • Realistic expectations: Sarandon was looking forward to the moment last January after Trump's swearing in when the workers of the fifty states would rise as one to seize the means of production and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, or at least break up the big banks and install a National Health Service; the House Democrats were looking forward to the 2018 elections when some of those Republicans might deservedly lose their seats. One of these things could conceivably happen.
  • Awareness of consequences: When Sarandon got her wish, what we immediately got was non-functioning government, doubling of civilian casualties in the war situations around the world and reckless arrests of peaceful but unauthorized members of our communities, threats which are already being carried out to the rights of black people, gay people, women, and journalists, threats which could still be carried out to deprive millions of access to medical care, threats which may yet be carried out to transfer trillions of dollars from people with household incomes of under $45,000 to people with household incomes of over $250,000, etc. And lots of very encouraging marches but no revolution. When the House Democrats got their wish, they were confident that the Republican "victory" would have no direct consequences at all, since the bill that had passed would never make it through the Senate to the president's desk, other than to make the House Republicans look simultaneously villainous and stupid, which they are.
  • Rhetorical approach: House Democrats were elegantly evoking the moment in 1993 when they did the right thing and voted in a progressivizing tax hike, knowing that they were jeopardizing their majority (which they indeed lost in 1994) and the Republicans mocked them in the same way, first time as tragedy, as a response to the moment when Republicans jeopardize their majority by doing the obviously wrong thing, voting under insane circumstances (no bill reading, CBO scoring, or debate) for an idiotic bill, for no reason other than to allow the president to say "I won!" when he didn't actually win, second time as farce. Sarandon was uncritically evoking Trump's own style ("Some people feel") to suggest that she wasn't responsible for what she was saying.
I haven't wanted to criticize Sarandon—I really loved Bull Durham and wish there would be a sequel where she and Costner, professing the same political opinions the actors report in real life, meet in an Arizona retirement community, with ensuing hilarity—but I certainly wouldn't have said she was "irresponsible" because I don't honestly believe she has a political influence of any significance, so why bother, irresponsible to what? I'd have said she was silly. But this has to be one of the dumbest things Robin has ever said.

The other thing is pretty annoying as well, in Robin's attempt to apply the Scalian hermeneutic to suggest that since five or ten of the thousands of words Sanders has uttered in the last couple of week overlapped with five or ten of Pelosi's therefore they actually said the same thing. Which even if it were true is the least important aspect of what is the profoundly unimportant story of what they were doing, as opposed to the opinions they expressed: how Bernie Sanders made a not very serious error which had nothing to do with abortion rights in the first place, and there was a certain amount of noise and bad feeling and the principals including Sanders all did their best to repair it and when they were done Mr. Chuck Todd attempted to stir the bad feeling up again so something thrilling would happen on his TV show.

The initial error was Sanders suggesting in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he couldn't endorse the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, in the special election to fill Tom Price's Georgia House seat, because he might not be a progressive, though he wasn't sure whether he was one or not—it would have been better for him to find out before commenting, for one thing. Then he went to Nebraska to campaign for a "pro-life" Democrat, Heath Mello, running for mayor of Omaha.

It's very important to note that the ensuing outcry from rank-and-file Democrats wasn't "How dare you support an anti-abortion candidate?" It was "How dare you support an anti-abortion candidate when you're too purely progressive to support Jon Ossoff?"—the candidate who appears, to the huge excitement of the party faithful, to have a solid chance of breaking the Republican lock on suburban white Southern voters, partly because he's placed against an anti-abortion fanatic and seriously unqualified Republican. And then when Sanders responded by deploying the appropriate cliché, that the issue shouldn't be a "litmus test" for Democrats, he only made matters worse, because he seemed to be implying that there should be some other litmus test, the one that Ossoff has mysteriously failed though Sanders can't tell what it is, and Sanders isn't even a Democrat.

Upon which everybody began to calm down and attempt to do the right thing. Sanders still hasn't found out whether Ossoff is in fact progressive enough but has endorsed him heartily anyway:
It is imperative that Jon Ossoff be elected congressman from Georgia's 6th District and that Democrats take back the U.S. House. I applaud the energy and grassroots activism in Jon's campaign. His victory would be an important step forward in fighting back against Trump's reactionary agenda.
Tom Perez, the brilliant civil rights attorney and America's best labor secretary in many decades but still learning how to be DNC chair, has vacillated a bit between the Big Tent cliché deployment ("If you demand fealty on every single issue, then it’s a challenge") and insisting on the fundamental importance to the party of women's rights, but he's gotten to the point of acknowledging that Mello, like about a million other Catholic Democrats from Mario Cuomo to Tim Caine, has understood what he has to do as a Democrat on the issue—

Screenshot from NBC News.
Nancy Pelosi has done what she needed to do to clarify the point of what really matters
In our caucus, one thing unifies us: our values about working families,” Pelosi said. “Some people are more or less enthusiastic about this issue or that issue or that issue. They’ll go along with the program, but their enthusiasm is about America’s working families."
Though she got a little snippy when Todd was trying to get her to interpret the sentiments of (i.e., attack) Perez.
"Why don't you interview Tom Perez? You're interviewing me... Of course. I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman's right to choose.
But making it appropriately about who she's worked with (effectively!) in the past, not who she's campaigning for in some fanciful scenario where anybody wants to her come to Omaha or Atlanta in the first place.

Robin, who ought as a true leftist to be at least as concerned as Pelosi is about what happens to working people, seems to be more concerned about the party's doctrinal morality, the who's good and who's bad, and keeping the Sanders-vs.-Clinton contest alive, as if he's hoping to keep the House Republican in 2018. Like the Sarandon revolution will totally happen this time.

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