Thursday, December 16, 2010

Activists vs. Rulers

In a comment on my last post, longtime reader and fellow nihilist Repsac3 wrote the following:
This is my whole theory of politics (liberal and otherwise). The fringes come up with ideas and fight for them wholeheartedly, even against others in their own party, while the moderates make those ideas more palatable to the voting center by negotiating with their "equal but opposite mirror images" on other side.
And while I understand what he's saying and see that sort of formulation often, I don't think that's the proper way of seeing our political system.  Because first off, a lot of the fringe ideas really are crazy.  It's not about making them more palatable to the rest of America, but about ignoring them in hopes they'll go away. 

And the reality is that there are a lot of non-fringe people who have plenty of good ideas and really do believe in what they're doing.  Ted Kennedy wasn't dragged to the left; nor was he on the fringe.  And I fail to see what Kennedy would have agreed to that Obama wouldn't have.  The fringe might be louder, but that doesn't mean they're more pure in their beliefs.  And as I keep arguing, I believe the fringe to be far MORE political than the moderates.  For them, policy is a side-effect of the fighting; not the point of it.  They'll take a bloody fight over a policy victory any time. 

And that's why when they complain about Obama, they're forced to ignore all the good things he's done.  Rescission was a horrible practice that all good progressives knew to hate.  Yet, now that Obama has ended it, they don't seem to mention it at all.  Because they cared more about the fight than the policy. 

My Theory of Political Peoples

Here's my theory of all this: There are activists and there are rulers.  Activists are good at fighting and rulers are good at ruling.  When we're in the minority, we need activists to fight as the rulers can't do much of anything.  But when we're in the majority, the activists need to step aside and let the rulers rule, because at that time, shouting and waving signs is useless or even counter-productive.  So just as the rulers are useless when they can't rule, the activists are useless when they can't activate.  (Yes, that's an odd way of putting it, but I just liked the symmetry.)

But unfortunately, the activists don't step aside when it's time to get shit done.  Instead, they go right ahead and attack the rulers again.  And any time the rulers stray in any way from what the activists want, they consider it to be heresy and attack.  And it doesn't matter if the activists are progressives or Tea Partiers or civil rights advocates or racist thugs; activists are activists and that's all they know how to do.

Because for as much as they imagine they're trying to keep the rulers pure by keeping their feet to the fire, the reality is that they're angry because that's what they do: Be angry.  That gives them purpose.  And if you elect these people as leaders, they'll either "sell out" by acting the way rulers act, or they'll do an entirely shitty job because they're in WAAAY over their heads and didn't understand the first thing about ruling. 

That's what we keep seeing from Republicans, as they're great at being pure to their cause, yet don't know much about getting shit done.  And that's because the Republican Party has been over-run with activists for a long time and it keeps getting worse.  Yes, they're good at saying "no," but saying "no" is the easy part.  The hard part is getting to "yes." 

And again, it must be stressed that progressives didn't just start hating Obama.  Progressives hated Clinton.  And they hated Carter.  And they really hated LBJ.  It's only in hindsight that they laud these people as heroes.  The far-left ALWAYS hates whoever's in power.  Dem presidents are all spineless sell-outs until they leave office, and a few years later, once all their victories set in, you'll start hearing about what great people Democratic presidents are. 

How We'll All Just Get Along

And so, no, I don't buy into the idea that activists keep the politicos pure.  I mean, if they wanted to push the political discussion to the left, then why do they focus their wrath on Obama?  Surely a far-leftie would hate the far-righties more, right?  But no, while liberals like myself try to focus on what Republicans are doing wrong, progressives will insist that Obama is to blame for all this, because he's not fighting enough; unaware that that's not what he's supposed to be doing. 

My only hope at this point is that the majority of these people will feel that our defeat in November was enough of a message and will get back to attacking the real problem.  Or at a minimum, they'll focus on all the batshit crazy things the Republican House will be doing and ignore Obama all together.  After all, Obama's not likely to be able to sell anything out for the next two years, so there won't be a lot for them to complain about. 

So here's to hoping that we'll all be on the same team heading into 2012.  Not with progressives shouting at Obama for not being pure enough, but shouting at Republicans for screwing with our country all the time.  That's how we did it before and I'm fairly confident it'll work for us again.


mahakal said...

What a fanboy you are. Worshipping rulers is not what liberals do. Arguing with shadow puppets is all you do. It's sick, really.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Who said anything about worshipping us? I didn't. Talk about arguing with shadow puppets. I presented what I believe to be a thoughtful argument about politics and human nature, and you turn around and take a great big dump on it. You could have at least TRIED to explain why my framework is flawed, but instead imagine I've made some point about authoritarianism and insult me once again. How thoughtful of you.

And not that your attack is worthy of a real response, but I realize that I might have left the wrong impression about who the "rulers" are. I'm not talking about just the people who we elect. I'm talking about a mentality. About whether people have the mentality for wanting good policies that can be implemented, versus people who are advocates for a specific position and don't really care about the messiness that it takes to craft laws.

You, for instance, are an activist, because you push for a specific position on issues and don't give much thought to how your positions can be implemented. It's all about slogans like "Medicare for all," without giving further regard for how that law could be written and passed through Congress or paid for.

I, on the other hand, would go into the "ruler" group, even if I never take political office. I'm not going to be someone out on the streets advocating a position, but I care very much for getting actual laws passed. A

nd none of this is to suggest that one group is better than the other. It's just that there is a time for each group to do their part. And the reason we were better friends during the Bush Years is because we had a common cause when we were in the minority. But the more we came towards the majority, the more you saw me as a rightwing sell-out because I didn't have your activist mentality and was more concerned with getting the job done.

I would also like to mention that this framework has nothing to do with our current political situation. I developed this theory in the mid-90's, when the environmentalists took control of the Austin City Council away from the pro-business groups who traditionally held it. They were all activist-types, which is how they got elected. But once in office, they clearly separated into two groups: The "sell-outs" who got things done and the "purists" who were incapable of getting anything done because they didn't want to "sell-out." The coalition eventually dissolved and Austin is now led by pro-business environmentalists, with epic battles being waged about what the proper mix of business and environmentalism should be. And that's why I rarely vote in local elections any more, as I no longer see much difference in their positions. I was happy to see the environmenalists win, but was dismayed by all the fighting they engaged in.

And I've seen that dynamic in many different elections, both big and small and in other countries. Political groups gain power on the backs of activists, but the activists are fairly worthless once they have that power. These two groups need each other to get good policies. Activist-types always have conspiracy theories as to why they're never allowed to have control, but the real reason is because they're just not very good at it. They either "sell out" or they remain ineffective. Democracy requires compromise, and that's just not something they're very good at.

And again, that's why Republicans are so bad at governing, because they refuse they're not good at compromising.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I would like to add that I'm really not entirely pleased with my use of the word "rulers." But it was already getting late before I started this post and didn't want to take the time to decide on a better term.

So there is a possibility I'll revise this post later on, in order to remove the negative connotations of "rulers," as I did think it was a bit haughty. Particularly as it implies that I'm referring to the people who actually hold political office, while that's not intended at all, as I'm describing a mentality, not a job position.

The dynamic I'm referring to also applies to the workplace too, as some people are great workers when it comes to pushing specific policies in the workplace, but lousy bosses. They're good at rising up through the ranks, but once they become the boss, they're micro-managing jerks who refuse to listen to anyone else's opinion. Unfortunately, that seems to be the norm in most workplaces.

I'm open to suggestions for a better term if anyone has one.

mahakal said...

I understand completely, you are basically a monarchist, though you prefer a reasonable, moderate ruler to an extremist one. The rest of your longwinded response is fluff.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Yes, Mike. When I talk about democracy requiring compromise, I'm exposing my monarchist beliefs. And when you talk about refusing to compromise and getting everything you demand, you're talking about democracy.

And sure, I fully support elections and INSIST that people hold their public officials accountable, but I'm a monarchist because I've noticed that activists aren't good at governing. While you think it's best to impose your beliefs upon others, even if they disagree with you, which shows how you support democracy.

You're totally right about everything. Perhaps I should give up my explaining ways and start arguing by insult, as you do. Why bother with explanations when they'll just be pointless fluff that can't possibly be understood?

Seriously though, you've not only missed my point entirely, but continue to affirm it.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I now realize that my use of the word "ruler" was a big blunder, due to its association with kings and tyrants. My original point was that actvists aren't good at governing because they don't have the right mentality, yet referring to the people who are good at governing as "governors" is obviously silly.

But what IS the right word? I had considered "leader," but activists can be good leaders, so that's not the right word. I can't use "politician," as activists can be politicians too. And so I settled with the word "ruler," because it was so easy and obvious.

Yet now I'm being attacked as a monarachist because of my use of one word. Sure, this blog has a long history of defending democracy and explaining why it's important, but now I'm a monarchist due to poor word choice. But again, if anyone has an idea for a better word, I'd be happy to change it.

mahakal said...

Leader is a good word, and indeed, activists can be excellent leaders. Ruler is the word you chose, because you want to punch hippies while claiming to be a liberal, which you are not. Furthermore you are an extreme hypocrite when you complain about the left instead of attacking the right wing, while protesting that the left should attack the right wing instead of moderate conservatives like yourself.

mahakal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mahakal said...

By the way, Barack Obama ran as an experienced community organizer, an activist in other words. By your own analysis, he is a "sell-out" type. Keep polishing that knob for him, though.

mahakal said...

San Francisco has progressive government, and it works. Go figure.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Yes, leader is an excellent word, yet it didn't work for my point because both activists and "governors" can be effective leaders. Activist leaders, in particular, are a much needed group and America is a better place because of them. None of this post was meant to be an insult of activists, as they do great work that can't be duplicated by people like myself. Thus said, they're often not very good at running a government or writing legislation, which was the point of this post. Not to bash them, but to point out the differences in their mentality.

I didn't choose "rulers" as a word to "punch hippies." I choose it because I couldn't think of a better word for what I'm trying to say; though I now regret using it due to unwanted connotations the word has. Henceforth, I'll use the word "governors." For as much as it sounds silly, it conveys the same meaning I intended for the post. I've always been more of a concept person and try not to get hung up on specific words. I really wish you'd stop trying to read in-between the lines and tease out hidden meanings that don't reflect what I'm writing.

As for who I'm attacking, feel free to peruse my blog to realize that you're mistaken. In the last five months, I've written thirty posts. Of those, thirteen attack Republicans, three attack the media for supporting Republican memes, seven criticize progressives who attack Obama, and seven are non-political posts involving nutrition, religion, and other such issues. And in none of these will you find me bashing liberal positions. I don't like the leftwing attacks on Obama as I think they're counter-productive to liberalism. I've never attacked liberalism.

So, where do you get this idea that I only attack progressives when they should be in agreement with most of what I write? And even still, am I really NOT supposed to address people who are attacking what I believe in? Am I supposed to give progressives a pass because they're more "pure" than me? I don't think so.

Secondly, Obama didn't run as an activist. He ran as a moderate liberal who would reach beyond politics and work with Republicans to get things done. That's why the activists on the left already hated him before he took office. He never positioned himself as an activist and you know that.

Beyond that, I don't consider activists who become effective governors to be sell outs. I think they're the better ones. That's why I put the word "sell out" in quotes, because I was quoting the convention that activists use against them.

BTW, if you could EVER find ANYTHING I've said against liberalism or democracy, I'd like to hear it. I've been attacking the politics of progressives who I disagree with. I haven't been attacking their policies, of which I'm mostly in agreement.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I'd like to add to my last comment that I always saw Obama's "post-politics" bipartisan thing to be a ruse against centrists, because that's an unfortunate hoop Democrats are forced to jump through. Even now, he's required to pretend to be more moderate than he is, because that's what the Beltway forces him to do.

And that's the biggest complaint his leftwing critics have: It's not that he's a sell-out, as he hasn't sold anything out. It's that he doesn't attack Republicans enough. Yet all the same, the Beltway Establishment still thinks Obama isn't bipartisan enough, though they're now scoring points for him because of the taxcut deal.

You can attack him for being too centrist, but the fact is that he couldn't be president if he didn't say these things. And as I keep saying, he's doing more as president than you have as not-president. He ended rescission. That should count for something.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Oh, and I had to laugh at your "hippies" line. Not just because the "dirty hippies" line is so passe, but because I look more like a hippy than you. You'll just have to take my word on this as I don't post pictures of myself online with this name, but I've got longish crazy hair and when I'm not visiting clients, I'm almost always seen wearing my hippy sandals and old scraggly shorts. Unless it's wintertime, when I wear old jeans and my sandals.

I fit in quite well here in Austin, but when I visit San Antonio and Houston, I start feeling like a dirty hippy, even though I'm generally quite clean. I suppose it doesn't help that I've got painted toenails, which is still fairly unusual for a guy, even in Austin.

Not that physical appearance is some indication of ideology, but I just thought the "hippies" line was a hoot. Especially as my post included Civil Rights activists, Tea Partiers, and racist bigots in the activist category. While you may have seen my post as some knock on the progressives attacking Obama, this was a category I came up with a long time ago and doesn't have anything to do with "hippies."

mahakal said...

Wow, retarded. You look more like a hippie than me (really? How do you know?) so you aren't really a conservative asshole?

John of the Dead said...

I think perhaps the word you wanted was "administrator." Maybe.

Anyhow, I probably come down on the activist side. And sure, the end of rescission is great. But here's my problem, still - Obama campaigned on and was elected on several ideas he seems to have since abandoned: closing Gitmo, withdrawing from Iraq, funding clean energy, and (the big sticking point around here lately) the public option. He was elected to do those things. He hasn't. In fact, he has bad-mouthed them, and the people who elected him to do them. That's my primary problem with him. Imagine if you interviewed for a certain job, and during the interview you said that you would, if hired, perform a set of tasks. If, upon being hired, you refused to perform those tasks and instead bad-mouthed the hiring manager, how well would you be received?

You keep praising his accomplishments. Those are well and good. However, you seem to try to ignore his many failures - he dropped the ball on the public option, we're still torturing prisoners in Gitmo, we're still bogged down in Iraq, we haven't cleaned up the financial mess (we're just hoping the system turns itself around without actually fixing the underlying causes), and it looks like we're getting ready to start dismantling Social Security. It ain't all roses, and I'm justifiably disappointed in him. I respect you and your viewpoint, Doc, and I'm certain we agree on quite a bit, but if feels like you're just urging us to clap louder so Tinkerbell will live again. That won't help.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Uhm...the reason I know I look more like a hippy than you is because I've seen what you look like. We're friends on Facebook, remember?

And no, I DIDN'T say that me looking like a hippy meant I wasn't a conservative. In fact, I made that clear in my comment that physical appearance wasn't an indication of ideology. And I didn't even say I look like a hippy, as I don't. I was just saying I looked *more* like one than you, and thought it was humorous that you imagined I hate hippies or something.

And really, why do you have to be so rude to me all the time? Does it make you feel better inside? I keep trying to be friendly, yet you keep shitting in my face and acting like I'm being rude to you. I don't insult you. I don't call you an asshole or suggest you're being retarded. What's up with the grief?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry this is anonymous, but I find the OpenID process onerous, to say the least.

Perhaps a better way for what you're trying to describe would be to say that "activists" lack the tools for governance in a democracy. It's not that they aren't useful, but that without the willingness to compromise, they cannot govern in a diverse society. Compromise is now, has always been, and will always be, the key to success when you're dealing with real people. The real problem is trying to apply labels, as I'm sure you know.

Witness the anger over the death of the public option. Yes, Obama promise a public option when he proposed health care (really, health care administration) reform, and it didn't make it into the final bill. But think, what did he have to say about that when questioned why no public option?

"Because we couldn't get it through Congress."

So, you're right. For the activists, it's not good enough that he ended recission and pre-existing conditions, and added options that will, in the short and long run, lower costs for insurers and the insured both, because he "broke his promise." But promises are not guarantees, not by a long shot, outside of contract law. Sometimes reality intrudes, and no amount of effort is enough to keep a promise. Expecting anything else is naivete.

And I'm not saying that I'm a little disappointed in the Obama administration, either. I am. I hoped for more. The difference is that I expected less, so I'm overall pleased, despite my disappointment.

Now to wait for the conservatives to finish their self-destruct because they just can't stay away from sticking their "activists" in governance.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. I kind of thought that was exactly what I said, but know I can always work on my communication skills.

BTW, there's an option to use a name without logging in, which is good as anonymous comments can be confusing. I'm all about the pseudonyms, as I prefer them over "real names," but find anonymonity to be a bit too mysterious.

makeinu (nee Anonymous) said...

Ah, missed that option. I'll remember in future.