Rebecca Solnit’s Mirror

I’ve been laughing my ass off at the number of lefties who have linked to–or republished–this Rebecca Solnit piece scolding her “dismal allies” for being such grumps.

It’s not so much I mind someone trying to persuade progressives of the importance of voting for Obama in November. Solnit acknowledges that Obama has done some horrible things and recognizes the dilemma that might present. And as a swing state resident, I’m used to blue state residents imploring me about the importance of my vote. I’ve always weighed the responsibility of living in a more closely contested state seriously and in 2004 worked many many hours to elect a John Kerry I believed was a problematic choice. Solnit appears not to realize it (allowing one of her interlocutors from NV to equate voicing this dilemma with actual voter suppression, which is after all, a real thing that involves affirmative attempts to make it hard for people of color to vote), but we lefties in swing states actually do think about this stuff and weigh it seriously. It is fair to try to persuade us that voting for Obama is a better choice than not voting or voting third party.

It’s just that I’m stunned that anyone–particularly people who work with words–could imagine Solnit’s piece effectively accomplishes her goal.

This is a piece the 7th word of which is “briefly” that doesn’t wind down for another 2,765 words. It’s the 6th paragraph before Solnit gets around to providing an example of her complaint, and before you get there, you have to wade through vacuous language like, “There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad“–italics original.

By the time readers have gotten to the moral of Solnit’s story,

Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.

She has called or implied her audience is “dismal,” “rancid,” “Eeyore,” “snarky,” “poison[ing],” “sour” “complainers,” “kvetchers,” “caustic,” “pile of bile,” She accuses her audience of “bitch[ing],” “pound[ing] down,” “habitual[ly] tearing down,” engaging in “recreational bitterness.” She disdainfully labels the “lesser of two evils” metaphor a cliché, but then informs her readers that, “when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail”–and that’s just one of her many clichés. And all that’s before she accuses her audience of asking that “Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure.” She calls other people snarky?

Given the way she attacks her audience, I find it hard to believe that Solnit didn’t see the irony when she suggests we “thrive in this imperfect moment [] through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.”

And then there are Solnit’s details. She repeatedly implies that she “already know[s] most of the dimples on the imperial derriere.” But that’s not always clear. Three times she suggests Obama’s re-election is about access to health care; just once does she get it right that it’s about access to insurance. And here’s the complaint–the one that first shows up in the 6th paragraph–that appears to have set her off:

Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she’s anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

Not only does Solnit seem to misunderstand what has happened on the foreclosure front, but she also projects motives onto a guy who appears to have insisted on measuring Harris by her deeds, not her words. Was he really “attempting to crush Solnit’s ebullience”? Does she have evidence to that fact? Can she–someone who writes for a living and in this piece demands that people “describe [this political system] and its complexities and contradictions accurately”–really not imagine that this guy was simply providing precisely that complexity?

Along with her ironic call for generosity and kindness, Solnit also suggests people consider how they’re engaging in this movement.

ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

Solnit might ask herself these same questions. Indeed, she might take a lesson from Obama, a master story-teller. Rather than attacking the students and Latinos and struggling workers whose enthusiasm had waned–a strategy Solnit apparently shares with Mitt Romney–Obama has told stories about kids getting insurance coverage and students getting Pell grants and factory workers working longer hours again. Given the increased enthusiasm among his base, those stories appear to have worked like a charm.

But rather than tell those kind of stories, Solnit has opted for precisely the kind of attack she criticizes.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

49 replies
  1. chetnolian says:

    Nevertheless, as a horrified onlooker, I hope you and those like you will screw up your courage, set aside your justified disgust and help save your great country and the World from the crazies who are the alternative. Even in a barely functioning democracy all those who care have to do more than preserve their sea-green integrity.

    And yes coming from a country which is still learning to live with not two but three parties jostling for the middle, whatever it takes, I do understand.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @chetnolian: LOL. In 1997, a bunch of Europeans told me they were surprised I hadn’t moved to Europe. But then they demanded that I stay in the US and fix it. I’ve always remembered that moment and felt a tremendous obligation to fulfill it.

    And that was before I married into European in-laws.

  3. Brindle says:

    I read the Solnit piece yesterday and saw her flailing at mostly imaginary people, caricatures of leftists that Rush Limbaugh might conjure up–“Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure” etc.

    It was an embarrassing effort.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @Brindle: Right. And I wasn’t so much interested in her piece itself, though I did find it comedic gold. I’m shocked by how many institutional progressives are linking to it with no sense of irony.

    She’s not a bad writer. But this is a horrible piece. I can only assume there’s some angst behind it she needs to work through that has prevented her from doing even a marginally decent job.

  5. bigchin says:

    “…but we lefties in swing states actually do think about this stuff and weigh it seriously. It is fair to try to persuade us that voting for Obama is a better choice than not voting or voting third party.”

    and likewise, it’s fair to assert that the “better choice” rhetoric has failed to persuade and for obvious reasons… which is why this “lefty” will vote for Jill Stein, in Florida.

  6. emptywheel says:

    @bigchin: Right. Ultimately, a vote is and needs to be a personal choice. And while everyone has theories about what wins elections–and a lot of the Solnits of the world prefer to blame Nader for Gore’s defeat than voter suppresion or Gore’s own shortcomings. But ultimately, all anyone can do is try to persuade. SO those who think it’s important to do so should think seriously about what it means to persuade and what it means to blame other voters for the shortcomings of our candidates.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @bigchin: Also note, Solnit actually didn’t admit to the possibility of voting third party, which I find stunning. It seems to be an especially viable choice in her own CA.

  8. lefty665 says:

    Wow! Thanks EW – Solnit’s piled more ad hominem attacks in there than the Teabaggers usually manage. With friends like these…

    One snippet from Solnit: “Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise.”

    Hardly a surprise? Silly old me, there have been a lot of surprises, many have been examined here. Not worth a lot of fuss? Really?

    Latif? What was that stuff about closing Gitmo in the last campaign?

    Innocent US citizens, some children, killed in drone strikes Obama apparently personally ordered? I don’t recall incinerating children being one of O’s campaign promises.

    Wonder how many innocent dead bodies have to pile up to reach Solnit’s threshold of “fussable”.

    etc, etc, etc… and, far too much crap in Solnit’s piece to pursue item by item.

    It’s almost enough to make me think there was something to Duhbya’s “Fool me once, won’t be fooled again” (I always did like the Who).

    Thanks for your discussion of the conundrum those of us in swing states face. It is not easy. On the one hand I couldn’t stand to help elect Mittens, even inadvertently. OTOH, I can’t stand voting for Obama again and thus ratifying what he’s done.

    I’ve voted in every election since Hump vs Slippery, but am thinking about staying home this year. Seems I forfeit standing to bitch if I vote for him. Voting 3rd party seems mostly an ethical dodge and conscience balm. Not voting abdicates an obligation of citizenship.

    Do you or anyone here have any interest in chewing that over some more? Help please.

  9. Casual Observer says:

    @lefty665: as individual voters chew through this (as I’m assuming all commenters here are), I’m curious as to why you see the 3rd party vote as an ethical dodge. While you’re at it, what exactly is an ‘ethical dodge’?

  10. jclausen says:

    This quote from Tom Carberry(criminal lawyer) comments at common dreams sums up how I feel about Rebecca’s condescension:

    “Ms. Solnit’s cliche filled essay complains about the cliche of the lesser of two evils, because she must admit that she has hitched her wagon to Obama’s stairway to heaven and declared the slaughter of Muslim children OK because “thousands” of American children will do better under Obamacare. (I can do cliches, too).

    Ms. Solnit belongs to the amoral left, that seeks its own benefits, without regard to the costs paid by others. No matter what happens, well off “liberals” like Ms. Solnit will do fine, or at least she believes that.

    We have two types of mainstream voters in Amerika — moralistic conservative voters (such as in they oppose abortion, but don’t mind if the child starves or dies without health insurance) and amoral liberal voters, who cannot take a moral stand on any issue, no matter how urgent.

    This latter attitude has resulted in the democratic party moving more to the right with every election cycle, going from the liberal LBJ, to the moderate conservative Jimmy Carter, to the right wing Bill Clinton, to the fascist Obama.

    All because “liberals” never saw an important moral issue they couldn’t punt away in order to grasp for some ephemeral benefit.

    Liberals can justify mass murder of children, torture, rendition, the NDAA, massive cash gifts to the 1%, in exchange for what?

    I had to read a long way into the article to see what Ms. Solnit deemed important enough to go along with war, torture, and mass murder. Obamacare and the potential promise of Obama maybe (or maybe not) coming out in favor of gay marriage.

    That seems like a poor bargain. Everything else seemed like a screed against those who won’t hug Barry the Baby Killer.

    I think Ms. Solnit should join Barry’s all volunteer army and kill some children herself. If you believe in fascism, you should have the courage to fight and die for it.”

  11. phred says:

    Being an afficiando of recreational bitterness (e.g., recently vented spleen over a particular lockout involving a segment of the sporting workforce), I just wanted to drop in to say, that as much as I hate Obama (which is a lot) and although nothing on this earth will get me to vote for that s.o.b., that I nonetheless thought Samuel L. Jackson’s recent Obama ad, was a hilarious send up of his brilliant reading of Go The Fuck To Sleep.

    Perhaps next time Solnit could take a stab at cajoling through humor… Jackson really made me smile, even at Obama. Who knew that was possible? ; )

  12. lefty665 says:

    @Casual Observer:

    “I’m curious as to why you see the 3rd party vote as an ethical dodge. While you’re at it, what exactly is an ‘ethical dodge’?”

    If you truly believe a 3rd party candidate is the greatest thing since sliced bread, then vote your convictions and get out there and work for your candidate. That is both good citizenship and how many social movements get off the ground. Go for it.

    In the 2012 presidential election, the chances of a 3rd party prevailing approach 0. A vote for a 3rd party because a voter cannot stand voting for Mittens or O, but feels the obligation to vote, is an ethical dodge because:

    (A) It is balm for the conscience, self indulgence, nothing more. Ain’t many ethics in that.
    (B) Casting a knowingly meaningless vote for a 3rd party candidate the voter does not materially support demeans sufferage to dodge the personal angst of making an uncomfortable decision at the ballot box. Hence, to my simple mind, an ethical dodge. YMMV.

    ps good comment @4

  13. jo6pac says:

    @jclausen: Thank You and EW and all commentors great stuff and as a memeber of the left I’ll be voting Green and not for the more effective evil as Glen Ford wrote a short time back.

  14. Tom Allen says:

    @lefty665: Ah, the self-indulgence of voting for the candidate you feel is best. Also, what do such voters hope to accomplish if their candidate can’t win this time? Increasing the visibility of the party? Swaying public opinion? Overcoming some arbitrary 5% threshold that will qualify the party for millions of dollars in convention and general election grants?

    http://www.fec.gov/press/bkgnd/fund.shtml

    Sounds ethically dodgy to me.

  15. emptywheel says:

    @lefty665: I don’t think third party votes are meaningless. Particularly in blue states, they show that a significant proportion of the electorate supports policies that are somewhere different than what the duopoly represent. The only time ethics even come into, it seems to me, is when a third party vote might have the associated effect of voting even worse policies into office.

    So it’s one thing to cast a Green vote in CA or OK. It’s another thing to cast it in VA.

    But I was surprised that Solnit didn’t even consider the ethics of third party votes (or even admit that votes in CA are different than votes in VA) in her screed, because they do offer a more moral vote for a lot of people.

  16. OrionATL says:

    solnit is what we call a yellow-dog democrat – “i’d vote for a yellow dog if it was the only democrat on the ticket.”

    or maybe she’s the kind of all-heart and emotions nitwit, of which there were a number in my family, that was so taken with – and by – candidate obama 4 years ago.

  17. jayackroyd says:

    I hadn’t seen her mansplaining piece before, so I clicked through and read that first. It’s an interesting companion for her lengthy condescension diatribe–carefully, very fully explaining things to the hopelessly naive nuts who she is forced to instruct.

  18. Casual Observer says:

    @lefty665:

    I’m willing to accept for sake of discussion that one person’s Obama vote is ethically equal to another’s third-party vote (but that really could be stood on its head imo). But given Obama’s bloody record I won’t accept that a third-party vote is ethically or otherwise inferior.

  19. lefty665 says:

    @emptywheel:

    I don’t believe 3rd party votes (especially Green) are by definition meaningless either. They can be how a social movement gains stature (me @17).

    Here in Virginia I’m encouraging the Teabaggers to get out for their 3rd party boy Virgil Goode. Ol’ Virgil seems likely to add a margin of safety to O’s plurality, almost all of his votes will come out of Mittens hide. This year we could argue that some 3rd party votes in CA and VA are complimentary. From the left in CA they spread diversity of ideas. From the far right in VA they reduce the chance of electing greater evil.

    I believe there is a second ethical question. That is (also @17) when a 3rd party vote is self indulgently to avoid difficult questions and choices but to have voted.

    The question I’m struggling with is that knowing (more or less, often less) what O has done in his first term, how can I vote for him for a second term? That ratifies his 1st term and becomes his justification for doing worse. Mittens is not a choice. Virginia is a swing state so, as with you and as you noted, we do not have the luxury of voting Green.
    But, how can I in good conscience vote for more of the same? Can I stand to have the red check on my “I voted” sticker be written in children’s blood? Lesser evil is still evil, and arguably only marginally lesser. As I’ve asked before, is freedom twice lost any further gone?

    A Krugman quote from a decade ago “Compromise with evil yields only the illusion of progress. Evil takes what you give it then comes back for more”. More please, can I have more evil?

  20. Casual Observer says:

    The notion that one can only vote conscience when the vote is meaningless, or less meaningful (aka as long as not in contested state), seems to me to be self-defeating. Isn’t that the reasoning that allows the Dem. Party to tie the Left to the roof of the car every 4 years? Tired yet?

  21. lefty665 says:

    @Casual Observer: See EW @20 on the ethics of 3rd party votes.

    It seems we’re not far apart on O. The question of what, if anything in 2012,is a reasonable alternative and why varies. That’s where I’ve been asking for help and discussion.

    re @27 Sorta how I got to ethical dodge. Sad part about the ride on the roof is that it isn’t really “Left”. Wasn’t so very long ago most of the stuff discussed here was centrist. Scary how far right the slide has been. Today the Repubs and Dems would get together to tar and feather Reagan and FDR from the same bucket.

  22. OrionATL says:

    @lefty665:

    i was thinking something similar: where i live, all the yellow-dog dems became yellow-dog repugs about 40 yrs ago.

    voting dem these days is an act of conscience; voting repug is merely the socially expected thing to do.

  23. tjallen says:

    I’m also voting in VA and also wondering how I can “approve” with my vote the job Obama has done. Lefty665, I’m with you on most of your reasons why it is hard to vote O again. But the more interesting story in my semi-rural area is how many Republicans don’t think they can vote for Romney. There are lots of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson yard signs around here. This is solid, solid Republican territory, but it is the Republicans who are thinking of voting third party around here, not the Dems. The pro-Romney voters aren’t condemning the Paul and Johnson voters, and are talking about holding their own noses to vote for Romney, or not voting at all. So where is the Solnit of the right, condemning with cliches the R’s who can’t vote for R?

  24. P J Evans says:

    I’d consider voting third-party, but they keep trying to start at the top and build the party down to the rest of us. No foundation under them, just castles somehow floating on air, surrounded with sparkly unicorns.

  25. lefty665 says:

    @tjallen: I appreciate that. We quit the Dems about a year ago. Couldn’t stand defending the indefensible any longer. Being concurrently dissed and leaned on to stay in line didn’t wear well either.

    There’s so many ways O has been Bush III, and worse because the Dems won’t stand up and say no. Shorthand is the only way to address them in the current discussion. Not much nuance, but hopefully the body of evidence in this blog over the years fills in most of the blanks.

    We’re also semi-rural, outside of Richmond in a county that reliably votes 70+ percent Repub. It is amazing isn’t it? Johnson, Paul and Goode signs outnumber the Romney signs here too. There are also yellow Gasden flags and the occasional stars and bars. As insult to injury we’re in the 7th District so we’ve got Eric Cant to endure. Teabaggers took over the local BOS last year.

    “So where is the Solnit of the right?” I believe there is none, except Ann Romney, and that is the story of the election. The Repubs don’t like Mittens any better than any of the rest of us do. Their Solnit(wit) equivalents were for the Teabagger du jour, and they haven’t reconciled. Now they are Johnson, Goode, etc dingbats out baying at the moon. They are the shock troops of the Koch Bros et al.

    If O wins we’ll get a lame duck grand bargain redux that will do in the last of the New Deal. O will be driving the steamroller and solnitwits like Mark Warner being oh so “moderate” and “working across the aisle” and “we have to compromise, it’s the only responsible thing to do”, and Bowles, Simpson, Rivlin, Cantor, Ryan… will do the actual dirty work of gutting and filleting.

    In VA in ’13 we’ll get Terry #$%^&*^&* McAuliffe for Gov, and in ’14 Warner reups for Senate. Not a party I want to be a part of. And that brings us full circle. How can I vote for Obama again and have any self respect, or feel that I’ve fulfilled the obligations of citizenship? I sure as hell won’t be out at 5am getting my poll workers shelter from the rain and coffee like I did in ’08. I may not leave home at all, and that’ll be the first time since ’68. TS Eliot had it right, it ends not with a bang but a whimper. Winston would understand.

  26. lefty665 says:

    @Phil Perspective: Ca 2002 election cycle when the Dem brain trust (Daschle, Kerry, Biden, Reid, Clinton, et al) were busy giving Duhbya the war powers act so they could go back to kicking his ass on the economy without being distracted by being called soft on terror. That really worked out swell didn’t it? That was Krugman’s point.

    Krugman’s quote stops with the quotation mark. My characterization of the Dems as Dickensian waifs plaintively pleading for the Repubs to dole out more evil begins where the quote leaves off. The Dem solnitwits don’t seem to have learned much in the last decade. Guess I haven’t either, I’m still beating my head against that wall.

  27. Richard Raznikov says:

    Thanks for holding up the Solnit piece to the light of day. There has been a sound response to her very disappointing nonsense in other places, as well. See http://lookingglass.blog.co.uk/2012/09/28/dear-rebecca-14896182/ and John Steppling’s piece, http://john-steppling.com/the-hungry-sheep-look-up/. It’s distressing that in order to make the case for the ‘left’ voting for Obama people such as Solnit seem to need a massive case of forgetfulness. If you want to vote for Obama, go right ahead, but please don’t pretend that his administration has not done the terrible things it has.

  28. sandra350 says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!

    Solnit’s piece was embarrassing. But it’s typical of her stuff-cloying, awful, sophomoric sentimentality and with horrible politics.

    It’s striking how earnestly people believe that voting for Obama will save legal abortion, social security, medicare, civil rights, abuse of executive power, etc. Or that he’ll appoint good judges to the Supreme Court. Kagan & Sotomayor are horrible appointments.

    DEMOCRATS / OBAMA HAVE NOT DONE ANYTHING TO PROTECT THESE RIGHTS.

    NOTHING.

    Obama has done nothing to protect legal abortion, he’s EXPANDED govt secrecy, conducted a war on whistleblowers, committed mass murder (incl. murdering people trying to collect dead bodies killed by drones), continued America’s gulag in Gitmo and elsewhere, and so much more.

    Oh yeah – he’s made it possible for gays & lesbians to work more comfortably in the US imperial military where they can focus more on murdering civilians. Big whoop.

    Solnit’s article was pure crap.

  29. lefty665 says:

    @sandra350:”Solnit’s article was pure crap.” I second that emotion.

    SOLNITWITS – Dems drunk on the Koolaid.

    I resisted responding in kind to Solnit’s multiple ad hominem attacks, but this one escaped.

    Solnitwit. It’s like Duhbya having a whole league named after him.

  30. BruceMcF says:

    @lefty665: The argument regarding an ethical dodge begs the question. The assumption that “In the 2012 presidential election, the chances of a 3rd party prevailing approach 0.” implies “Casting a knowingly meaningless vote for a 3rd party candidate”.

    Clearly, a bloc of votes, from one on up, cast for 3rd party candidate looms larger in the 3rd party candidate’s results than the same bloc of votes cast for Whig or the Tory faction of the Corporate Party. A larger vote haul for a 3rd party candidate may encourage a volunteer to continue working for the party. It may encourage an appealing candidate to stand for election on the 3rd party’s ticket. And of course if the 3rd party is perceived as taking a stand on a particular issue, a surprisingly large 3rd party vote is far more likely to be seen as a protest vote for the Corporate Party ignoring that issue than a vote for either wing of the Corporate Party.

    So the easy logic that a vote is unethical unless it helps decide THIS election falls down on recognition that a vote in this year’s campaign may conceivably have an impact on future campaigns.

    Indeed, while voters in a small number of swing states genuinely face the ethical quandary of the Lesser of Two Evils … its supporting evil, but LESS evil is better than MORE evil … a vote for one of the two wings of the Corporate Party in a “safe” state is the truly meaningless vote that can have no influence of any sort on the election nor on the course of future political campaigns … so on the “ethical dodge” line of argument, the only truly ethically dodgy vote is a vote for one or the other faction of the Corporate Party by a resident of a Safe State.

  31. thatvisionthing says:

    @emptywheel: Re voting for third-party candidate or doing a write-in vote, Neil Barofsky is advocating just that. From his recent interview on Mandelman Matters podcast:

    http://fdlbooksalon.com/2012/09/22/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-neil-barofsky/#comment-2225590

    NEIL BAROFSKY: We have to stop casting our votes for politicians who are going to maintain a broken status quo. And, you know, to me that’s where we have to be. And you know I think we have to recognize that this is perhaps the most important economic issue facing our country and resist the temptation to go with the lesser of two evils and hold my nose and vote for this candidate because he’s better than the other guy, because when we do that, you know the politicians don’t see our votes as lesser-of-two-evil votes or holding-our-nose votes, they see it as an affirmation of their policies. So when you vote for politicians who’ve done policies who you find and I find to be repugnant, of betrayal of their oaths of office to serve the taxpayer and the American people, we’ve got to stop reelecting these people. And we’ve got to withhold our votes to those candidates who are going to advocate the type of necessary change.

    So, you know, if you’re in Massachusetts, you’ve got Elizabeth Warren who’s talking about breaking up the big banks. If I lived there, I’d vote for her. And there’s a lot of candidates running for Congress and the House of Representatives this year and candidates in the Senate who are advocating these positions, and so the number one thing you could do is to vote for one of those and demand that the politicians get it right next time. Because, you know, this is a growing movement of breaking up the banks, and you know you break that corrupting influence and I really do believe a lot of good will flow in the future for this country. And, you know, taking that type of political action is, to me, is going to be necessary. It’s not going to happen — it’s certainly not going to happen in 2012.

    MARTIN ANDELMAN: Heh. I was going to say, well who do you vote for? That’s what I mean. I mean I know lots of people that are saying, “Well, I’m not voting.” And, “Would it matter if I did? I mean, it’s the same thing, right?”

    NEIL BAROFSKY: Well I think people should vote. If people are disgusted with the two candidates, they should vote third party. They should write someone in. Because I think that’s an important message, they should still vote. Because that’s – I mean, I think that’s part of the important message we have to send to Washington, which is that because – I mean, that’s part of the problem, right? If you don’t vote at all, then you’re sending a message to Washington that you don’t care, you’re not involved, you’re not engaged. And what we have to do is we’ve got to convince the politicians in Washington that there is a force, there’s a number of people out there who are really angry and want a third choice, want to do something else, and that’s how we can put pressure. Maybe if we scare them enough that enough votes show up not for one or the other, that that could help move one or the other political party to the right direction, or maybe even, if we’re really lucky, give birth to a third party movement. But I think if you stay home and don’t vote at all, you just disappear from the radar screen.

    I have a real question, though, whether write-in votes are tabulated and reported with other results. Thinking of San Diego’s 2004 mayoral election where 5,000 write-in votes for Donna Frye were thrown out because the voter had misspelled her name as “Fry” or had not also blacked in the write-in vote box as well as writing her name. It was a farce, and it cost her the election, and the Democratic Party did not fight it in court. The other thing I think of is Stephen Colbert’s SuperPac effort in Iowa this year, where he ran ads urging voters to write in “Rick Parry” with an a, but was not able to get a Parry count separate from Perry afterwards. It would be useful/powerful to know who we all were writing in.

  32. thatvisionthing says:

    @sandra350: I thought Sotomayor was turning out to be good — didn’t she question corporate personhood when Roberts pulled Citizens United back for re-hearing?

  33. thatvisionthing says:

    @P J Evans: But that kind of describes the government we have now, don’t you think, except they don’t care about reaching down and out to the rest of us? I think that’s the whole 99-1% argument. They control the candidates, so it doesn’t matter who we elect. Heads they win, asses they win.

  34. peony says:

    @emptywheel:

    “She’s not a bad writer. But this is a horrible piece. I can only assume there’s some angst behind it she needs to work through that has prevented her from doing even a marginally decent job.”

    Exactly the conclusion I came to. It appears that her writing is a reaction to being offended, in which case, loss of perspective and clarity are hard to avoid.

  35. thatvisionthing says:

    I’ve been thinking. In (larger) defense of Solnit…

    Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.

    In that big picture, as opposed to her scolding us to vote for less-evil Obama, I think she’s right. I haven’t read her that much, but one thing of hers that I did read years ago that has stuck with me is … and I’ll have to paraphrase because I can’t remember where I read it … that people ARE changing the world from the ground up, that we are inventing our own solutions locally that governments are failing to and that aren’t being reported. Little by little, person by person, community by community, idea by idea, we are adding up. This feels right to me, because when I look at all that’s gone wrong and all the broken corrective mechanisms, it is with just such despair that we can ever get things right again. War of the Worlds, mere humans can never prevail. Except in War of the Worlds the monsters are defeated by microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, something. Infection.

    Words and ideas are infectious.* First Amendment = thing #1. What emptywheel does is infectious, and so many others whose tireless work I admire, even though sometimes it must seem thankless and like nothing happens — thinking especially of people like David Swanson and Jeff Kaye and Jason Leopold and Andy Worthington — I think something is happening. One of these days I think there’s going to be a viral flare of compassion and the world will change.

    Also, while Solnit seems to want to regiment us like Republicans, I truly enjoyed the lefty free-for-all her article gave rise to. Felt pretty healthy as a matter of fact: Ideas, exercise, airing, rising. Invigorating.


    * Banksy: “If graffiti changed anything, it would be illegal” http://images.huffingtonpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/246588/slide_246588_1423387_free.jpg?1345816499000

  36. thatvisionthing says:

    Catherine Austin Fitts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DSdVYHcE74#!

    I finally blew up at one collegue and said, “Look, my nickname for the two candidates is GoldmanSachs-Monsanto Right and GoldmanSachs-Monsanto Left, and it really doesn’t matter which door you go through, you’re still going to get Goldman Sachs and Monsanto.” There are lots of good independent candidates with very interesting and a wide diversity of platforms, and things could get very interesting if at least 5% of the people in America voted for an independent candidate. So your vote counts, I always believe in voting, but, you know, don’t waste your time on GoldmanSachs-Monsanto Right or Left is my recommendation.

  37. OrionATL says:

    @thatvisionthing:

    here is the tale:

    around april 2008 “daily kos” and “talking points memo”

    were walking in the desert (separately),

    when a voice said to each of them: “support obama and you will be given a white house press pass.”

    and low and behold they suddenly began to support obama, just like one is supposed to support one’s ward boss in chicago or el salvadore.

    and it came to pass…

    that they got a pass.

    so now they take a pass

    whenever criticism about this great man rears its uncivil head and horns.

  38. thatvisionthing says:

    @OrionATL: The one I don’t get is how all the websites and media in unison took to banning and ridiculing people who questioned 9/11’s official story – as if official stories before or after or anything Bush and Cheney told us was ever unquestionably true, cf Janice Rogers Brown – and made it a mark of scorn to be seeking truth – “truther” as epithet. Daily Kos certainly does it, Kos did a mass purge of everyone who said “9/11” once and it’s why I think of him as Rumpelstiltskin – don’t say that word! or he goes hopping crazy. But so many other sites as well. I don’t think Amy Goodman even touches it – Amy Goodman! Makes it a magnet for me, start there. I wish they’d ask the candidates that question at the debates: “Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, all these architects and engineers, over 1,000, say the evidence shows that all the buildings that fell, WTC 1, 2 and 7, fell because of controlled demolition, and they give convincing reasons. So everything that followed from getting that basic fact wrong is cracked. Do you think this is worth investigating?” That’s what the truthers want is evidence and investigations. They tried getting it on the ballot in New York, we want an investigation, and got way more than the number of signatures required and yet a court stopped them, said it wasn’t their place to order an investigation. This is how the world stays crazy.

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