Performative moralism is just bawling upon paper, not political strategy
A small but influential faction of the Democratic left seems to be committed to the idea that the way out of our political difficulties is to persuade Democratic voters that they should be very angry at Democratic politicians. This is insane on every level.
For example, Ben Burgis in Jacobin argues (as far as I can tell) that the fact that Democrats are not “waging war” against the filibuster shows that they are “hypocrites” and do not “give a shit” about abortion rights. Let’s take a look.
Now that we know what the court is planning, the next question is what the Democrats will do with this information. So far, all that seems to be in the works is a symbolic vote intended to put everyone on the record and lay the groundwork for making abortion rights an issue in the midterms.
That’s pathetic. Democrats want to posture as the defenders of democracy and gender equality. But as long as they continue to coddle the anti-choice reactionaries within their party, this rhetoric is a bad joke. A party that actually cared about those things would be waging all-out war to end the filibuster and codify Roe into law.
. . .
But their failure to act meaningfully to stop abortion from being outright criminalized in vast swaths of the United States takes their hypocrisy to another level. This is the stuff they’re supposed to care about.
Democrats have plenty of excuses for not making a serious effort to codify Roe into law. Their Senate majority is paper-thin with fifty Democrats, fifty Republicans, and Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. And only forty-eight of the fifty Democrats are even nominally pro-choice. Joe Machin is flatly antiabortion, and Bob Casey seems to hold a slightly more ambiguous version of the same position. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema is pro-choice but too pro-filibuster for that to matter.
These are not “excuses”, they are the actual reasons Democrats are unable to codify Roe.
But here are a few things to keep in mind before giving them a pass for their failure to protect basic rights:
First, the Democratic majority in the Senate fluctuated between fifty-eight and sixty during the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. At no point in this period did Democrats even try to codify Roe into law.
Were they unaware that the Supreme Court might eventually issue the sort of ruling that just leaked? Hardly. They’ve yelled themselves hoarse about precisely that danger during every presidential election cycle of my lifetime. It’s a great way to get the Democratic base to come out and vote.
Burgis may not have noticed, but the capacity of Congress to legislate is . . . limited. In addition to multiple veto points, “Congress”, in the words of political scientist John Kingdon, “is easily fatigued”. The Democrats had lots of problems to deal with during Obama’s first two years in office, and it’s far from clear that an effort to codify Roe should have been at the top of their priority list. Remember, they were working on major health care reform and climate change legislation, it was far from obvious at the time that the efforts of right-wingers to pack the Court would succeed, and an effort to codify Roe would almost certainly have failed and might have hurt them politically. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and unrealistic assumptions about what the Democrats could have done it’s easy to make the failure to codify Roe in 2009 or 2010 appear to be an outrage. But what does that do, other than demoralize Democratic voters?
Second, the current effort barely even qualifies as “half-hearted.” Two pro-choice Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, won’t support the current bill but would support a weaker version that adds in some exceptions (mostly codifying abortion restrictions already in place). Why doesn’t the Democratic leadership bring that version to the floor?
They can claim the reason is that they’re too damn principled to brook any compromise whatsoever on an issue this important, but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. This is the Democrats we’re talking about. They compromise three times before breakfast. The simple truth is that they don’t want to muddy the waters with a weaker bipartisan bill because they aren’t even thinking in terms of strategy for pressuring pro-filibuster Democrats and getting something passed. The point of the exercise is just to get everyone on record so they can run on the issue in the midterms.
You can quibble about which bill the Democratic leadership should bring to the floor, but the fact is that no bill will pass. I enjoy second-guessing Congressional leadership as much as the next guy, but this hardly justifies Burgis’ attack on the integrity of the entire Democratic caucus.
Actually, Burgis agrees that there is no hope of any legislation passing, sort of:
Perhaps nothing they could do to apply pressure would work anyway. Joe Manchin swatted away his last primary challenger without breaking a sweat, and Kyrsten Sinema may already be looking ahead to her probable post-Senate career as a lobbyist. For all we know there could be a dozen more Democrats in the Senate as committed to keeping the hideously antidemocratic filibuster, and they’re all happy to keep their heads down and let Manchin and Sinema take the heat.
But the reason we don’t know whether any of that’s true is that Democrats haven’t even pretended to play hardball with these people. Is Joe Biden crisscrossing the country campaigning for primary challengers to unseat anti-choice or pro-filibuster Democrats? Have any publicly visible levers of political pressure been used against these holdouts?
Of course not.
So Burgis agrees it’s very likely nothing can pass, but we can’t be absolutely sure, because Joe Biden isn’t crisscrossing the country or using “any publicly visible levers of political pressure” against Manchin and Sinema. What levers is he even talking about? What would an effort to shame Manchin accomplish, other than pissing him off, raising his approval ratings in West Virginia, and making it more likely he becomes a Republican? What Burgis wants is a pointless display of performative progressivism.
If the Democratic leadership went to war against the reactionaries standing in the way of legislatively codifying the will of the public on abortion rights, it might end badly. Maybe they’d lose their majority. Maybe Joe Manchin, for example, would switch parties and be reelected as a Republican.
But if you call something an “abomination” and you mean it, you should be willing to take real political risks to stop it. We’re not talking about some bill to adjust the top marginal tax rate by a percentage point or two. We’re talking about states around the country legally forcing pregnant women to stay pregnant and putting people in prison for making the “wrong” personal medical decisions.
I sense that Burgis is struggling with the basics of rational decision making. The fact that something is an “abomination” doesn’t mean we should do things that are likely to make the problem worse and that we have no reason whatsoever to believe will make things better.
This is put-up-or-shut-up time. If you care about something exactly enough to fundraise about it and issue strongly worded statements about it and use it to get out the vote in the midterm elections, but you don’t care quite enough to take the kind of stand that would risk defeat, fair-minded observers can’t be blamed for wondering if you actually give a shit. So, the way to help women retain their reproductive autonomy is to tell progressive readers of Jacobin that it’s reasonable to wonder if Democrats really “give a shit” about abortion rights.
Sorry, but I for one am tired of childish, self-defeating performative moralism from people like Burgis. It’s the fundamental attribution error mixed with Green Lanternism, or, as Bentham might put it, bawling upon paper.
Apparently, the Dem leadership is sure that when/if they lose their quasi-majority this November, they will need to do heavy-duty filibustering starting next January.
There is always this argument. The filibuster should have been ditched long ago, since it is inherently undemocratic. However, the very existence of the Senate is predicated on the need for protecting (legislative) minorities. It’s most important in the effort to keep guv’mint ‘weak’ and ineffective. Where would be without essential dithering in at least one house of Congress?
The reality seems to always be that ‘That guv’mint is best which governs least.’
It’s also a major reason why ‘the people’ grow weary of ‘democracy’.
Just imagine, if the Dems lose both the House and Senate this fall, the only hope for anything like ‘sanity’ in guv’mint will be the remaining years of the Biden administration AND Dem filibustering in the Senate.
Err, make that incessant dithering, maybe.
From a Times report on lowering death rates among Blacks”
One crucial feature of these campaigns has been their bottom-up nature. Local leaders have often designed outreach campaigns to fit their own communities. Rachel Hardeman, the director of the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity at the University of Minnesota, described this approach to me as “centering at the margins.”
It can be especially effective when doctors and nurses listen to people’s vaccine skepticism and respond respectfully and substantively. Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a family physician in North Carolina, has described this attitude as “listening with humility.”
Why haven’t you heard more about the narrowing of Covid’s racial gaps? I think part of the reason is that many experts and journalists feel uncomfortable highlighting shrinking racial gaps in almost any area. They worry that doing so will somehow minimize the problem of racism and the country’s enduring inequities.”
In other words it’s nore important to sound tough on racism than it is to do anything about it.
Covid and Race
NY Times – David Leonhardt – June 9
help for young readers
who may think the above comment is “off topic” because it is about Covid and Race, while the lead essay was about abortion and politics.
but actually the comment and both the lead essay and the Times were about political performative moralism versus getting something done. Note the words “bottom up” and “listening…with humility”.
Which in our case usually means “You should be more humble and listen to me!”
(What does this have to do with this thread?)
From a Times report on lowering death rates among Blacks” …
Covid & Race
NY Times – David Leonhardt – June 9
Well, it was an interesting thread.
There is some talk (James Carville, others?) that Dems must discipline the progressives.
That the Dem party is inherently centrist, and will suffer the same fate of the GOP, if they don’t do so.
And you hear the opposite from the ‘progressive wing’.
This presages a schism in the Dem party. The GOP would not object.
The schism in the GOP drove many of them to join the Dems.
Nothing good can come of this, in the near term.
It may be inevitable. What ever happened to the Whigs?
one of them joined the Republican Party and became President.
The Federalist party disappeared. So did the Whigs, As did the Know-Nothings, who used a variety of names.
Both our major parties today are ostensibly descendants of Tom Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party, and aside from the 40%+ of voters who prefer to do their own thing, the two major parties contain the entire electorate.
Indeed, one of the last of the Whigs, Abe Lincoln, opportunistically joined the GOP & became the first elected GOP president. He was idolized by the last progressive GOP president Teddy Roosevelt, and presumably today they would both be staunch Dems.
ostensibly? apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.
the only people who portray Lincoln as an opportunist are those who need to believe that no white man ever helped black people. they need to believe they did it all themselves.
Richard Striner wrote a good book in answer this canard: Father Abraham.
Lincoln long believed that slavery should be abolished AND that freed slaves should be transported back to Africa. Apparently he eventually realized that would be unachievable.
Tracing President Lincoln’s Thoughts On Slavery
Coberly, can you explain how Abe Lincoln is still a GOP hero or is he someone they have stopped claiming as one of their own in recent decades?
Lincoln was and is an American hero. The Republicans of today have nothing todo with the Republicans of 1860, but they would like people to believe that somehow
they share the values of Lincoln and deserve the respect due his memory. The Republicans today are shameless liars, and it is incredible that you would somehow believe that their claiming him as their hero has some credibility… to the point, seemingly, of tarring Lincoln with their brush.
It is further incredible that you would think that Lincoln was guilty of some sort of racist crime because he believed until he learned better that freed slaves would be happier “back in their own country.” It is really not a general and permanent law of the universe that anyone who ever believed in their time something that we, so enlightened as we are, do not believe in our time, is guilty of moral degeneracy.
I guess I might be guilty of the same error because I tend to beleive that of people who have not yet learned what I think I have always known and would have known two hundred years before I was born, if only you would have asked me.
I entirely agree that Abe Lincoln is an American hero & archetype.
I only find it unlikely & disturbing that the GOP (at least) has a hard time convincing anyone that they still feel the same way. They have less difficulty casting their lot with various slave-holding founding fathers.
please forgive me…sincerely. I cannot follow your logic. I think you get confused by labels. The modern Republicans have nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln or the Republican Party of 1868. Nor do they have anything to do with the Framers/ Founding Fathers. Those people were trying to build a Nation. Today’s Republicans are trying to destroy one.
You and I know nothing about the motives or morality of either the Founders or even of Lincoln. A saner person than I am strongly suggested we “judge not,” even people we do know. How much more foolish of us is it to “judge” people we do not know, who lived in a time we know nothing about.
As for logic: you “find it unlikely” that “the GOP has a hard time” convincing people… “that they feel the same way” … same way as what or who? same way as people they are the complete opposite of? i’d be glad they have a hard time convincing people of a lie. is it unlikely or is it disturbing that they have a hard time? it seems they don’t have a hard time at all.
and how are they “casting their lot”?
these are question for you to answer to yourself. i can’t keep up.
I think we do understand much about what the FF’s were thinking, and unfortunately much of it was selfish, naive & ill-considered.
The persistent racism & sexism & income inequality in this country have been problems for centuries, and to the extent that liberals have managed to ameliorate this is impressive, but there is still a long way to go, and we may never get there.
Democrats can’t win, not because of the party’s policies, which are supported by the vast majority of Americans in most cases, but because 1. their banner toting representatives in the house, senate, and Whitehouse won’t take action to implement their platform, and 2. because a large portion of those who support their policies would rather vote for someone who rejects their preferences outright than vote for anyone with a D behind their name on the ballot, possibly because of number 1, but also possibly because of the overall damage to the brand done by Fox News.
Inevitably that means a new party is needed.
Can’t count to 270, huh? Or 60? Or 218?
I can follow the logic, but suspect writing about a Jacobin magazine article is always counterproductive. Even if you persuade 95% that you are correct, you marginally increase the influence of the article, since bugger all will have stumble on it otherwise.
The author of the Jacobin article betrays his intellectual insufficiency with every sentence he writes. This is independent of his political views. Kramer does a good job of refuting those views.
Which gives me the opportunity of indulging in what some call “ad hominem.” But isn’t really. I am not saying you should reject the argument because the person is stupid. Stupid people have a perfect right to make arguments. They may even be right sometimes. And perfectly smart people sometimes make stupid arguments. There is a difference between stupid people and stupid arguments, which I wish ostensibly smart people would recognize before getting their feelings hurt.
Of course, calling an argument stupid does not refute it. And good manners would suggest I not do that (good manners having more to do with not offending people, and especially not offending dangerous people, than with any abstract idea of a moral code). But sometimes it at least feels necessary to point out bad arguments as well as intellectual insufficiency without taking the trouble to “prove” the one or protect the other,
Do these people even realize that Supreme Court rulings trump legislation? Even if the Democrats could pass a law to “codify Roe”, the Supreme Court would just strike it down as soon as a relevant case challenging it came to them.
The packing of the Supreme Court by Republicans can be addressed only by enlarging the court (which would face all the same obstacles with the filibuster and Manchin’s obstructionism that the article note).
Clarence just ruled on Bivens stating basically Congress is better equipped to set guidelines for excessive force used by Border Patrol. Bivens was the standard by which courts decided compensation for civilians getting their ass kicked by the border patrol. He rejects Bivens leaving the Border Patrol with immunity for suits.
Miranda Rights is also on the docket. Miranda has critical protections against coercive police interrogations and are routinely recited by officers whenever they make arrests or question suspects in custody. The court believes states or Congress should establish legislation governing rights.
My post tomorrow will review both although not as eloquently as Eric. I am becoming to believe SCOTUS will lead the overthrow of the US unless we have another Jackson who will state the court should enforce their ruling.
our SC is quietly repealing the 14th Amendment and undoing the Civil War without mentioning it. the fourteenth guarantees the citizens of all states the rights enumerated and unenumerated in the Constitution. saying the Congress is better equipped…with the filibuster and and a coercive majority simply means the people will have no rights the Court is obliged to respect. as for enforing it’s decision it has all the power of the State and local power structures to take care of that.
which was especially touching to me because I have seen people, white as well as black, beaten and railroaded by local authorities and have no recourse. The Constitution was intended to be a system of checks and balances, and I foolishly thoughtthe answer to the problemof local abuse would be a “one phone number” to call for help, from the feds, or from private associations with the resources to provide legal help and publicity for people subject to local abuse. without a federal backup they would be able to do nothing. it may be that the answer is local mass action by the people themselves, from “demonstrations” to boycotts…quieter and less futilely strident than they have become, but more of them tightly focused.
hah, i can;t even get people to call their congressmen and ask to have their payroll taxes increases,
increased, not increases. i can’t blame spell-check for this one. but by the time my finger types the key, my internal spell check has gone on to other matters and apparently just figures that increases is more probable than increased by sheer statistical probability having nothing to do with the meaning of the sentence, spell-check having nothing to do with meaning. “not my department,” it says.
typo watching the typo watch
omigod! they’re coming to get me!