Exit, Voice, loyalty and the Instance of the Fingerpost.

Were they really the same?

Last night I stumbled on a bunch of tweets between Matt Stoller and Jay Rosen.  I don’t know if you guys have been noticing this lately but it appears that the former Obama fans in the left blogosphere from 2008 have been freaking out about the tight spot they’re in.  It’s a bit of “Should I stay or should I go?  If I stay there will be trouble, if I go there will be double”.  I sympathize with them because I went through this same dilemma 4 years ago but I’ll get to that in a second.

Wnat seems to have finally tipped them past the zero point is the issue of drones.  I have a very Tolkienish attitude towards war.  It’s bad and I don’t worship it.  But I do worship the innocents who I feel responsible for, which means just about anyone trapped in war zone, under the threat of genocide or crimes against humanity (invading Iraq didn’t qualify in my humble opinion and the evidence used to get us into it was all lies anyway). And I think we have an obligation to help those people with military assistance or humanitarian aid.  That’s just me.  Your mileage may vary.

But I can say unequivocally that I do not support the use of drones, ever.  The principle is clear: drones represent a disembodied use of power with virtually no accountability or consequences to the persons who use them.  They are, therefore, easily abused.  It might start with people in Pakistan you don’t like but there is nothing to stop the drone owners from using them on other groups they don’t like.  One abuse, even 6000 miles away, is the tiny pebble that is dislodged that will bring the mountain down on you.  I’ll even go so far as to say that I think that countries that use drones should be sanctioned by the international community.  Oh, yes, I do.  It’s not so much that we have become war criminals.  It’s that we have become a threat to any free people who gets in our way, including our own citizens.   So, yeah, I’m pretty down with them about drones.

But as to whether it makes sense to exit the political process, voice your opinion or stay loyal in a political environment where it appears your vote doesn’t matter, there is only one answer that makes sense: you must speak up, even at personal risk to yourself. That might mean voting for a third party.  But given the situation we’re in and the ramping up of authoritarianism, to not speak up now while you still have a voice would be counterproductive.

However, I still don’t think the Stollers, Rosens and  Ackroyds fully understand how we got to this point and until they realize where they went wrong, they may not be able to fix their current situation because they appear to be focusing on personalities and associations and not on principles.  If this were merely a problem of Obama’s personality or competence, it would have been relatively easy to get rid of him early in the 2012 primary season.  But what we are experiencing is the aftermath of a coup where the avenues to changing the outcome have been blocked, sometimes from within the party, sometimes from the activist base that is blindly punching the wind, hoping to land a blow.

So, at the risk of being a drone about this, I want to briefly revisit the 2008 election season using the concept of the Instance of the Fingerpost.  I ran across this concept described by a philosopher of the scientific revolution, Frances Bacon, when I read the book An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears.  The concept is about how you distinguish between two things of apparently equal value.  Here is a description:

When in the investigation of any nature the understanding is so balanced as to be uncertain to which of two or more natures the cause of the nature in question should be assigned on account of the frequent and ordinary concurrence of many natures, instances of the fingerpost show the union of one of the natures with the nature in question to be sure and indissoluble, of the other to be varied and separable; and thus the question is decided, and the former nature is admitted as the cause, while the latter is dismissed and rejected. Such instances afford very great light and are of high authority, the course of interpretation sometimes ending in them and being completed. Sometimes these instances of the fingerpost meet us accidentally among those already noticed, but for the most part they are new, and are expressly and designedly sought for and applied, and discovered only by earnest and active diligence.

In other words, when you are trying to ascertain the true nature of something, you need to use your powers of observation and collect as much information about the thing as you can in order to make a judgement. And when you do, you will eventually find something regarding the true nature of your subject  that is so firmly intrinsic to it that it can’t be separated from it.  That instance is what sets it apart and tells you conclusively what its true nature is.

When I first started this blog in January 2008, I was a Clintonista but I was also a party loyalist.  That is, if the candidates were truly equal and had the same policies, Democratic principles etc, but differed only in approach or priorities, I would have had no problem voting for Barack Obama.  I stated as much somewhere  early on and for the first month or so blogging here, I tried very hard to maintain that position.

But then the observables became hard to ignore and I started to assign them to one candidate or the other.  In truth, they were not the same.  They were very different on policy, political philosophy and experience.  But I was still going to vote for the eventual nominee because the candidate was a Democrat and I was a loyalist.

That changed when I found my instance of the fingerpost.  In this case, it was the fact that Obama was incapable of winning the election without the aid of the DNC manipulating the votes of MI and FL.  Instead of seeing this as proof of Obama’s strength as a campaigner, I saw it as proof of his weakness.  The best that he could hope for, even with the strange apportionment of delegates in caucus states in 2008, was a tie.  But not only did he win the nomination, the party seems to have protested way too much about the viability of their other candidate.  They didn’t just sideline her, they humiliated her at the convention, denying her delegates a chance to vote for her on the first ballot.  It wasn’t just that they didn’t want a floor fight, they didn’t even want to acknowledge that she or her voters ever existed.  It was beyond what was reasonable. It was overkill.  On top of that was the scorched earth tactic that ran over women, all women, not just the candidates themselves.  It was bold, in your face, relentless, harsh, demeaning and we have been living with the fallout ever since.

But those were only the observables of an underlying unwholesomeness that had taken over the Democratic party that I had never witnessed before in my life.   The instance of the fingerpost was that when the party rewrote its rules to favor one candidate over another, the Obama campaign did not protest.  Whether you think that the Clintonistas should just get over it or not, you can not deny what happened.  The rules were rewritten in such a way so as to nullify the votes of one candidate’s voters because they were never able to achieve the critical mass in the public eye that would have made Clinton the obvious winner early on or even a legitimate contender later in the season. That’s what happened.  The process started early in the primary season, maybe even before the primary season began, but it solidified at the Convention.  If you were a Hillary Clinton voter in 2008, you might as well have stayed home during the primary season and not bothered with the canvassing and phone banking and rallies.  Your vote was either reassigned without your consent or not counted at all.  That is election fraud, in my opinion.  The party convinced voters that their primary elections were legitimate and then it turned around and invalidated the results in state after state.

So, I had to ask myself, what would I have done if it had been Howard Dean whose voters had gotten the shaft?  Would I still be angry?  I’d have to say I’d probably still be very concerned.  Because even though I don’t like Howard Dean, probably as much as Matt Stoller doesn’t like Hillary Clinton, if I saw that his campaign was doing its best to uphold the principle of fair reflection while the other campaign wasn’t, I’d support Dean’s challenges wholeheartedly.  Elections have to at least have the appearance of fairness or they’re pointless exercises.  It is my rule to NEVER, EVER vote for a candidate who messes around with the votes or nullifies elections such as was done with MI and FL in order to come out on top.  That was the instance.  You mess with the vote count and make some votes more equal than others, well, you’ve instantly earned my distrust.  How can I ever expect a candidate who is willing to do that to every respect by opinion or grievances or anything?  I can’t.

This is not just a case of political roughness.  And it’s not like one campaign was just really clever.  It was an act of aggression of one  candidate’s supporters against the other’s.  It was more like Kingmaking, with the more ruthless, violent opponent winning using every trick in the book and pulling out wads of cash when that wasn’t working.  Now, you might say that that’s just the way things work these days but I’m not interested in right by might.  I’m interested in a democratic process.  Besides, as I have said before, you can’t expect a candidate who ran like Ghenghis Khan to govern like Gandhi.  In Khan’s world, voters don’t matter.  I want to preserve the sanctity of the vote because as citizens, it is the only thing that gives us worth.  So, when someone violates that sanctity to game the system, that’s it for me.  His nature is revealed.

I also can’t trust him to stop with mere manipulation of delegate counts.  If he can get away with that and never be held accountable, then what is going to stop him from going even further?  (Notice I haven’t said anything about ACORN or any other nonsensical right wing meme.)If he didn’t get into office with the support of more than half of the party, what makes me think he even cares what we think?  And if his own supporters didn’t stop him, then he’s already hobbled them.  They need to stay onboard and be loyal in order to not lose face and power in the party infrastructure, or they come to their senses but realize that they are now powerless.  Separated from their natural allies in the party , i.e. the losing candidate’s voters, because of anger and resentment over the injustice of it all, they find themselves powerless, fewer in number and making excuses about why they made the decision to back the wrong candidate in the first place.  That’s not winning them any friends, by the way.  Meanwhile, the candidate goes on to represent his true constituency, the people who helped him buy off the rulemakers.  He is never held accountable because his party’s base is held hostage.

So while Matt and Jay muse over the right course of action, they should step back and think about what principles they think they are defending.  Matt, in particular, seems to have a severe case of Clinton Derangment Syndrome.  I don’t know why this is.  Maybe it’s the environment he’s in, the people he hangs out with, the glue he’s sniffing.  Whatever it is, it seems to be completely unhinged from reality.  He seems pretty damn set against Hillary Clinton in a way that I am not set against someone like Howard Dean as much as I dislike him.  I think this attitude has blinded people like him from taking the only possible actions this year that would have given them a voice. But in the Democratic party election scenario, the candidates are swappable.  Who they are is unimportant.  You can take any two Democrats and pit them together.  The one who attempts to game the system through vote manipulation reveals his true nature.  That is a candidate who sees elections as mere formalities, something that can be fixed or bought. He will lead his former supporters to despair that elections don’t count anymore.  And if the party could do it in 2008 without a fuss from the rank and file, they’ll do it again in the future.  You can count on it.

We all saw it, guys.  We were aware back in February of 2008 what was going on and what the DNC hoped to achieve.  The party was bought by the 1%, their malware candidate was installed and when the crash came, as they knew it would, he allowed them to go unpunished while he muted the voices of the citizens who needed and deserved better treatment.

You can exit, or voice but to stay loyal at this point in time is definitely not acting in your best interests.  The way back to sanity is not through a new hero or heroine.  It’s the long hard slog to restore the legitimacy of elections in every state.

And now, I’m done.

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23 Responses

  1. Great point: “you can’t expect a candidate who ran like Ghenghis Khan to govern like Gandhi.”

  2. You can’t expect the Waffle Eater propped up by Genghis Khans to earn his Nobel Peace Prize.

  3. Over at DKos

    “MoveOn has sent a letter to the Public Integrity Division of the United State Department of Justice urging it to investigate whether Mitt Romney committed a felony by violating the False Statements Act…”

    while the Murderer in Chief with Impunity goes unremarked. Is that what you’re referring to? Straining at gnats.

    • Hello, another CB. I’ve been posting here since I first figured out that the Dem Party was not the party of my youth and that there was something seriously wrong because the primary was being rigged. One insider from Southern California (an Asian woman) told me that she was told that it was time for a Black man and that women would have to wait.

  4. “One abuse, even 6000 miles away, is the tiny pebble that is dislodged that will bring the mountain down on you.” Yes, we will pay for our lawless use of deadly power. I expect us, one day, to hire out our drones to the highest bidder in order to pay off our national debt.

  5. The question Obama supporters need to ask themselves is ” what would it take for you to withdraw your support for your candidate? ” What must he do to demonstrate he is no longer worthy of your support. ? What is your ” red line ? ” Unfortunately, too many in the party don’t have one. And that means disaster in an Obama second term and for the Democratic Party longer term. The left support he has gotten has been given with virtually no quid pro quo. They are threatened, bribed, and frightened with pandemonium if the Republicans win back power, but in so doing, they’ve been completely disempowered. I wonder if Markos Moulitsas sees the irony in all of this. His site was founded in the spirit of taking over the party from within, but instead of that, his site has become an appendage of the party apparatus. In effect, HE”S been taken over.

    For me, it was in Barack Obama’s first year, when he ignored virtually every campaign promise he made. It demonstrated he had no character, and that his words were merely tools to get him the Presidency. But instead of raising a stink, the party faithful swallowed hard and got back into line.

    We now reap the harvest of this devil’s bargain.

    • yes, but you are focusing on what he did once he was elected. I’m saying the damage was done by the way he won the nomination, not by his broken campaign promises. It was a coup of the party. If you only focus on what he did after the election, you would be missing the real damage- to the election system. We lost the concept of “fair reflection”. When Obama’s gang decided to pay off the DNC to change the rules and no one held him accountable for disenfranchising 18000000 people, his supporters gave him permission to ignore them. Because if you can’t stand up and insist on a fair election simply because the ends justify the means, then what else will you tolerate? What might have happened if MI and FL had not be gamed? Obama and Clinton would have gone to the convention virtually tied with Clinton slightly ahead. There would have been a floor fight. Either one of them could have won the nomination and I would have supported the outcome because it was fair. But because the delegate count was so close, and Obama’s backers had so much at stake, other means had to be used. That should make you very angry but surprisingly, I have found that many former Obama supporters don’t want to look at that. They only want to focus on their own betrayal, not what they roped the rest of us into.
      Why should the rest of us reap what we did not sow? Our candidate was actually winning. Gaming the system didn’t benefit anyone but the 1%.

      • I went back and read your link to Hirschmann’s theory. According to Prof. Hirschmann, members have basically two choices when confronted with organization unresponsiveness; voice or exit. Presently, the left is choosing neither, but that will have to change soon. I personally learned much about the 2008 primary from you and the commenters here, and I think the sidelining of Hillary was evidence of a corporate takeover in the Democratic Party. But there are other pieces of evidence we can look at to draw the same conclusion; the broken campaign promises, the leniency toward the banks, the drone attacks, the increase in the surveillance of American citizens.

        I agree with you, Hillary was screwed out of the nomination. Wall Street didn’t want her, and they arranged things to ensure their guy got in. And we know that NOTHING is sacred if it interferes with what they want , not even the primary electoral process. Your arguments convinced me. I think the problem now is how to proceed. I think it’s healthy that Matt Stoller and Jay Rosen are having this discussion, because the left is going to have to make some hard decisions in the years ahead when it becomes clear that the party elites have no use for them except as pawns.

        Voice or exit. I suspect exit, but we’ll see how this plays out.

        • Again, you are looking at the wrong thing. Forget Hillary. When the RBC met on 5/31/12, it wasn’t about Hillary. It was Barack Obama vs the voters. That was what it was all about. Hillary and her voters were casualties but you could have substituted any other name in there besides hers. The question before the committee was were they going to assign 59 uncommitted delegates to a candidate who wasn’t even on the ballot because th thought he was going to be clever and try to invalidate the Michigan primary when he took his name off the ballot. The 59 delegates he got included 4 delegates that were legitimately won by another candidate. How would you like it if the Democratic candidate for president was denied his term because the electoral college decided to take the undisputed delegates he won in Ohio and gave them to the Republican?

          What you seem to be suggesting is that you acknowledge that Hillary got screwed and the Obama fans were betrayed. And I’m telling you that as much as I believe that Hillary would have made a much better president, it did not matter that she was the one he was running against. She just happened to have the misfortune of getting in his way in 2008. It could have been anyone.

          It was the voters that he screwed because he behaves as if elections can be manipulated. Indeed, if you don’t manipulate them, you might not win so you might as well do whatever you can to win. But in this case, winning does not mean fair reflection, one person, one vote or honoring the count. It means bribing, propaganda, flooding the caucuses with your droogs. It means eliminating your competition by not respecting the results of the election. And if you don’t say something at the time it’s happening because you are so besotted with the guy that you are wiling to forgive anything in the moment, then you can’t complain later that you were betrayed. You weren’t betrayed. You were quite aware of what he was capable of doing. You just didn’t think he would do it to you. But to him, you are no different than any inconvenient voter who gets in his way and you just gave him your consent to continue to ignore election results. By failing to hold him accountable, he has learned that he doesn’t have to keep any promises. He will just invalidate the votes he doesn’t like or, having achieved his ultimate goal, ignore you.

          When I saw what he was up to, I KNEW he wasn’t going to be the great Democratic hope that the party faithful said he was. How could he be? He didn’t get to the top by paying attention to the people who vote and he’s quite capable of silencing dissent. This is why the primaries were so important. It was like inviting a vampire into your house.

          • This is a post. I’m going to steal it if you don’t post it tomorrow.

          • You get this, don’t you, Kbird? It ceased to be about Hillary that day.
            But what really drives me crazy is that the former Obama fans are so blinded by their feelings for Hillary Clinton that they can’t look past it and see what is really lurking in the shadows of the party.

        • As for Matt, and the two Jays, I agree that it is a good thing they are starting to consider the next steps. But at the heart of it all is the validity of the vote, Without that, nothing can be accomplished. If they want their elected officials to pay attention to them they have to make sure that they get to choose who those people are and not have a party thrust them on us like we are children. Primaries MUST be meaningful. In my opinion, you have more to fear from a politician that has no respect for elections than the politician who isn’t your first choice.

        • They have a third choice. They can choose to surrender and obey.

  6. For me, the fingerpoint was when Obama accepted the delegates who represented people who had voted for Hillary. The sexism and the race-baiting had primed the pump but the moment the press reported that Obama had accepted Hillary’s Michigan delegates, he was dead to me. A person who does not respect my vote, does not respect my rights as an American.

    • Yup, that was the final straw.
      His attitude was “screw Florida and Michigan voters unless I get what I want”. He was pretty consistent. Hillary’s donors even offered to pay for a do ever in Florida, Obama turned it down.
      It is pretty clear who he was interested in protecting- himself. The ironic thing is he could have gotten me back on board if he had done the right thing and won the honest way. But he took the quick and dirty route and that made all the difference.

  7. He’s never had much respect for anyone’s vote. Remember this, back in the day, Houston Press, Feb. 28, 2008?

    He was just 35 when in 1996 he won his first bid for political office. Even many of his staunchest supporters, such as Black, still resent the strong-arm tactics Obama employed to win his seat in the Illinois Legislature.

    Obama hired fellow Harvard Law alum and election law expert Thomas Johnson to challenge the nominating petitions of four other candidates, including the popular incumbent, Alice Palmer, a liberal activist who had held the seat for several years, according to an April 2007 Chicago Tribune report.

    Obama found enough flaws in the petition sheets — to appear on the ballot, candidates needed 757 signatures from registered voters living within the district — to knock off all the other Democratic contenders. He won the seat unopposed.

    “A close examination of Obama’s first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career,” wrote Tribune political reporters David Jackson and Ray Long. “The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.”

    Alice Palmer was a very popular politician, way ahead of him in the polls. The article doesn’t mention that he waited till the last minute, to get her by surprise and make sure she wouldn’t be able to round up the few extra signatures, which would have been easy for her.

    I believe, technically that’s not election fraud. So he moved on to bigger things with the bigger elections.

    • Obama’s Democratic primary candidate when he ran for State Senator was favored to win, until that candidate’s sealed divorce records were revealed. Obama’s Republican opponent’s sealed divorce records were revealed (published in the L.A. Times, which was bought by one of the major Chicago newspaper corporations). Obama ran unopposed until Alan Keyes was brought in from out-of-state just before the election.

      Seems Obama is “destined” to win without competition. Mitt is self-destructing now. Even Rev. Wright couldn’t take down Obama. He just read another speech in which he threw his grandmother under the bus with the rest of us.

      • I think you underestimate the power of conservative propaganda. They’ve been working on it for a long, long time. What looks like a gaffe to you might be just what the right wing nut cases and their more gullible hangers on want to hear.
        Maybe Obama wins, maybe he doesn’t. It will all come down to who has the most motivated voters.

        • As you typed, turnout is the key. I peg die-hard republican nutbags at 30% who would vote for Attila the Hun if he were on the ticket. They might not cotton to Willard but they despise the Commie in the White House. On the Dem side I’m not so sure. Obama has the Kossholes and the Whole Foods Nation but the blue collar vote is disheartened. This will be an election not for but against the other candidate. The republicans are putting up roadblocks in voter ID requirements, will Democrats be motivated enough to jump thru the hoops.

  8. Great post. To me, the unbelievable amout of shit Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic got for saying he wouldn’t vote for Obama on the grounds of drones and civil iberties was revealing. Balloon Juice and Lawyers Guns and Money went on DEFCON alert wth multiple, fiery posts and comment threads denouncing his views and him personally for even entertaining the idea of not voting for BO. Whether you call it a deadlbreaker as CF did or a fingerpost as you’re doing, everybody finds an issue or a point where they’ve had it and can’t stomach it any more. And the reaction, today as it was 4 years ago, isn’t calm and reflective but tribal, angry, intolerant, smug, arrogant, and dismissive. CF had a post today highlighting the reaction to his initial post and making the important point that it’s when you threaten the political powers that be where it hurts, with your votes, that you get your attention, not when you give them your support without conditions and criticize them without doing anything about it. My dad was in the military, about as hierarchical as it gets, but they taught the officers at least back then that there’s loyalty up to your commanders, but there also has to be loyalty down to the troops under your command. The Dems and their enablers at BallJ and LGM are good at preaching loyalty up but not so good at demanding loyalty down. They’ll scream at nobodies like us but purr like kittens and coo like doves when it comes to talking about our “leaders.” To me, that’s being tribal and being a sycophant, and I don’t want any part of either.

  9. I also left the Dem tribe as a result of the 2008 primary season. Once the fingerposts started coming it was not hard to research BHO’s past and find many more that brought his character and principles into question. He was and still is a blatant career opportunist straight from the Chicago machine.

    I wonder how many of the delegates that got strong-armed in 2008 are back this year?

    P.S. Just to be nit-picky, it is believed that drone operators actually do suffer from battle stress and PTSD (sorry no links). I’m not saying that makes it all honorable or anything…

    • I don’t doubt that drone operators suffer. However, there are no physical risks involved for the operator or the persons directing the operator. And without that personal expense, there is no deterant to lowering the bar on the requirements for a drone strike. If its not expensive, it will be used indiscriminately. Maybe it won’t happen this year or the next. But at some point in time, there will be a domestic public enemy or enemies on whom it will be used and in this media environment, we may not know whether the case against that person is valid or simply a series of lies that justify the use of force against an inconvenient whistleblower or popular leader. Don’t think that such a possibility hasn’t crossed Julian Assange’s mind as he sits it out in the Ecuadorean Embassy. If he was extradited from Britain, I guarantee that if he didn’t land in us custody, there would have been a drone with his name on it waiting for an opportunity to strike.
      I believe war must be expensive in both bodies and money so that the dearness of both will act as a deterrent from ever getting into one.
      Drones eliminate the costs and are therefore a dangerous threat to us when they fall into the hands of people who are not accountable for their actions.

  10. The question is . . . are 18 million 2008 Hillary voters ready to withhold their 18 million votes from Obama in 2012, out of revenge or principles or both? If not, then Obama will likely win.

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