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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