Blog Link: Disloyal Opposition in the US.

datePosted on 13:34, October 27th, 2009 by Pablo

For some time I have watched the opposition to Barack Obama and his administration with growing unease. Having some familiarity with Latin American politics, I began to see parallels between the traditional behavior of conservative Latin American oppositions to Left-leaning  democratic governments and that now manifesting itself in the US. I have now pulled my thoughts together into this month’s Word from Afar essay over at Scoop. The essay has more of a polemical tone than usual, but that is a reflection of my contempt for, and concern over, such behaviour.

49 Responses to “Blog Link: Disloyal Opposition in the US.”

  1. SPC on October 27th, 2009 at 20:12

    This is an inevitable consequence of

    1. the war on secular society (left liberalism) of the conservative Christian right Moral Majority and Christian Coalition (the Catholic Church has also declared war on secular society, but is at arms lengths from the American political activism concerned).

    This signalled the end of civility in political discourse.

    2. 40% of Americans believing in Creation Science and over half in a second coming (2/3 of Christians).

    This signalled the end to appeal to reason and constructive dialogue in the political discourse, now it is about an appeal to arms and to faith in the cause – which is the end of “democratic” tolerance for other Americans and ushering in Christ’s dictatorship (meanwhile the Catholic Church is notably declaring its confidence of co-existence between faith and reasonable science – recognising the valid contribution of Copernicus, Darwin and Marx as if it was not to be tainted by the mad excesses of American Protestant Christendom in its own war on secular society democracy. Of course the Catholic Church is not driven mad by Second Coming end time religion as the bible fundamantalist is).

    Protestant religion began as a religion for the literate, now its ending as a religion for the banal fascist inside a national chavinism.

    On the targeting of Fox, Fox is not really a news network. It’s a right wing blog which has news items (even Kiwiblog is largely based on news items), maybe it should be seen in that light and given its “due” respect.

  2. MacDoctor on October 27th, 2009 at 21:30

    Pablo:

    I think you are confusing the unusual grassroots mobilisation of angry conservatives with some sort of insurrection. Normally, it is only the Democrats who manage to mobilise their public.

    The somewhat paranoid view that Fox News and the vociferous conservative opposition to Obama is somehow a form of treasonous rebellion is in danger of seriously damaging freedom of speech, as evidenced by Obama’s attempted rebuffing of Fox News’ right to be part of the normal MSM.

    SPC:

    It is absurd to call a major network like Fox News a “blog” and compare it to Kiwiblog. Fox employs a wide network of journalists who have broken several major stories. David Farrar, OTOH, simply reads his newspapers and comments from time to time, just as a blogger should.

    Just because you don’t like what Fox produces, doesn’t mean it is not a legitimate news service.

  3. Pablo on October 27th, 2009 at 21:38

    MacD:

    I was wondering how long it would be before someone brought up the “freedom of speech” canard. Nor am I confusing anything. What the conservative wing of the GOP and its media mouthpieces are doing is trying to foment civil distrust and unrest in the presidency and Congress in a measure seldom seen before (nothing the “Left” in the US did to W. Bush remotely compares). The grassroots “mobilisations” you refer to have been stage managed by the insurance and corporate health lobbies using outlets like Fox as their PR agents. This trend of playing dirty may not turn into a full-fledged guerrilla war but it is nevertheless despicable, to say nothing of disloyal.

    Remember: democracy entails both rights and responsibilities, and one of the responsibilities is to exercise self-restraint in the characterisation and treatment of opponents (the shouting “fire” in the theater analogy applies here). The Beck-Hannity-Limbaugh led fulminations against the Obama administration are anything but that.

  4. SPC on October 27th, 2009 at 22:22

    MacD

    Has there ever been a news service like Fox News before?

    Is it really just another news service?

    It arrived in the age of blog partisanship. And it has more in common with blog commentary than provison of a news service. That some get their news reporting from Fox, just as some get their news reporting spun for them while reading Kiwiblog (which by the way does try and create stories for the MSM), is by the by. People go to Fox, not for the news but for the commentary. It is commentary for those who do not want news but validation of their own opinion about the news.

    Fox is tribal, is mainstream news tribal? Its underpinning premise is of course that the rest of the media is liberal (false news) and that only they provide the “real” truth. In that sense it resembles a cult.

    Calling it like it is, is no threat to free speech. Just as Fox calling other media liberal was no threat to free speech.

  5. Andrew W on October 28th, 2009 at 06:26

    I think in a democratic system it’s always a mistake to start labeling a sizable section of the political spectrum as baddies. It may well be that some conservatives are playing a mean game of hardball, but as in Iraq, the best way to counter this is to concentrate on winning over the section of the population that has been their support base.

    The main strategy change that occurred with the Iraq surge was not an increase in the targeting of the insurgent leadership – they were already about as targeted as they could be, the main strategy was winning the hearts and minds of the population.

    Ultimately the responsibility for holding a country together is down to the leadership and, in my eyes, while Obama may well feel the treatment he’s getting from Fox and Co isn’t fair, his job as President is to represent all Americans and he’s making a serious mistake if he responds by targeting some of them.

    The same thing applies in NZ, a PM who singles out individual media outlets or private individuals for special treatment has in my opinion acted in a way not befitting his office.

  6. Pascal's bookie on October 28th, 2009 at 06:55

    Data point:

    http://rawstory.com/2009/10/gops-facebook-photos/

    The same thing applies in NZ, a PM who singles out individual media outlets or private individuals for special treatment has in my opinion acted in a way not befitting his office.

    What do you mean by single out for special treatment? Fox is what it is, the pres is under no more obligation to assist them than he is to assist any other partisan news source. He is, I think, giving them the same treatment that he would give National Review or the Weekly Standard. Or that a GOP pollie would give to The American Prospect. Partisan media get treated differently.

    The last administration went years without calling on Helen Thomas at a press conference. They warned journos to be ‘careful’ about what they said in the build up to the Iraq war. They used the word ‘treason’ (a federal crime carrying the death penalty) when the NYT published reports detailing the admin’s law breaking. Obama is obviously a slacker ;)

    Obama may be making a political mistake with his treatment of Fox, but I doubt it. The voters that will be incensed, aren’t going to vote dem anyway. The Press corp haven’t gotten any closer to understanding the voters since Clinton’s days. The MSM thought that Lewinsky scandals would kill his presidency. Yet he remained popular with actual voters.

  7. Pascal's bookie on October 28th, 2009 at 07:51

    Pablo:

    In that light, Fox and its media allies are doing much more than playing the proper role of an adversarial press in a democracy. They may deny it, but what they are doing is calling for insurrection.

    Dave Neiwert has a post on a recent Beck rant with the following quote:

    Beck: You can all sit around the table, like those people did, and then you can say which one’s gonna to get whacked? You can sit there and you can live in fear. Or you can stand up and say ‘Enough of your bat!’ I warn ya, that means that some people are gonna get whacked … You gotta take a stand, even though you know, in the end, you pull out a knife and they’re gonna pull out a gun. The question we have to ask ourselves , what is it we truly believe in? What do we believe in? Who are we? Are we the guy who sits around the table in fear? Or are we the guy who stands up and says, ‘Hey! What the hell are we all doing? He’s one guy! There’s more of us than there is of him!’ But I warn you, you have to ask yourself, if you stand up, what are you willing to do? Sure, you might get whacked, but let me tell you something, if you spend too much time in the bed with the mob, if you spend too much time at that table, you’re gonna get whacked eventually anyway.

    None too subtle is it?

  8. Scott Yorke on October 28th, 2009 at 07:54

    Beck, Hannity et al are dangerous demagogues with political and ideological agendas. Omama is playing a dangerous game taking them on, but he probably has little choice. Ignoring them isn’t working.

    When “news” networks organise political protests against the government, surely a line is crossed.

  9. Andrew W on October 28th, 2009 at 08:39

    “I would think that what this reflects is a pent-up frustration or rage at the coverage they get, not only from Fox but elsewhere,” said David Gergen, a CNN commentator and former White House aide.
    Gergen said he understands the temptation to go on the attack — he’s done it himself — but it frequently turns out to be a mistake.
    “My experience has been when the White House engages in personal or organizational attacks, it elevates the other side to virtually the same level of the White House, which is not their intent,” he said. “It’s going to spike Fox’s ratings,” which are already high this year.
    If the White House wants to fight back, it’s better to let surrogates do the work, he said.
    Several critics have questioned the wisdom of Obama’s approach.
    “Whether or not you like Fox News, all of us in the press need to be concerned about the administration of President Barack Obama trying to `punish’ the cable news channel for its point of view,” wrote television critic David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091018/ap_on_en_tv/us_tv_fox_vs_white_house

  10. Ag on October 28th, 2009 at 09:12

    The somewhat paranoid view that Fox News and the vociferous conservative opposition to Obama is somehow a form of treasonous rebellion is in danger of seriously damaging freedom of speech, as evidenced by Obama’s attempted rebuffing of Fox News’ right to be part of the normal MSM.

    You’re missing his central point.

    It is all very well to value freedom of speech and democracy, but what do you do when a section of the population uses these political rights for the purpose of abolishing them?

    The standard (silly) response is simple denial. In other words, people will claim that democracies are such that authoritarians will never be able to muster enough support to abolish these rights. That is flatly contradicted by historical facts (Herr Schicklgruber and his friends are the most notorious case), and in any case it does not answer the question. It’s just something that people are unwilling to confront, because dealing with the problem forces us to realize that democracy is a much more complicated and nuanced political system than we commonly believe. In particular, you can’t have a working democracy unless there is a basic level of good will between major political factions.

    Now ask yourself whether it is the Democrats or the Republicans who have abandoned this practice. A look at the behaviour of the Republicans when they were in power demonstrates that they are guilty. One only need look at how Democrats were completely shut out of policy making, which was by all accounts something quite new in US politics.

    Fox News is simply one piece in this larger puzzle.

    I think in a democratic system it’s always a mistake to start labeling a sizable section of the political spectrum as baddies. It may well be that some conservatives are playing a mean game of hardball, but as in Iraq, the best way to counter this is to concentrate on winning over the section of the population that has been their support base.

    What if they are that bad?

    Again, this is missing the point. There appears to be a hard core of conservative America who are not for turning. They are only perhaps 20-30% of the population, but they aren’t interested in any meaningful form of compromise or in accepting an election loss. To these people liberals are an existential threat and are not to be tolerated in any fashion, and so the most basic forms of political co-operation are to be withdrawn.

    The truth is that a genuinely democratic system cannot tolerate a disloyal opposition (where “opposition” refers to the primary competing faction to the government) or a tyrannical government. That’s the important point: democracy is a political system based on tolerance, but that tolerance ends where political factions pose a threat to that very tolerance. It is then incumbent on the democratic faction to remove from political influence, by the least worst means, the anti-democratic party and its supporters, and they would be right to do so. The current radical Republicans must be replaced with Eisenhower conservatives, or the US faces worsening political dysfunction (probably in regional forms, since radical conservatives are almost all confined to the midwest and south).

    Just how to pull this off is the difficult task that the Democrats face. We are fortunate that New Zealand politics is nothing like this.

    It’s all very well to talk about democratic rights, but there is no point to such rights unless you would defend them against those who would remove them.

  11. Andrew W on October 28th, 2009 at 10:54

    What if they are that bad?

    If they were that bad they’d get arrested.

    Again, this is missing the point. There appears to be a hard core of conservative America who are not for turning. They are only perhaps 20-30% of the population, but they aren’t interested in any meaningful form of compromise or in accepting an election loss.

    Typically only 30 or 40% of the electorate in a two party system are swing voters. Obviously the 20-30% you refer to have accepted the election result. There’s been no attempt to remove Obama by Republicans.

    To these people liberals are an existential threat and are not to be tolerated in any fashion, and so the most basic forms of political co-operation are to be withdrawn.

    What?! Have all the Republican representatives walked out of the Senate and Congress?

    The truth is that a genuinely democratic system cannot tolerate a disloyal opposition (where “opposition” refers to the primary competing faction to the government) or a tyrannical government.

    The oppositions task is to question the actions of those in power, and this is what the Republican’s have been doing.

    That’s the important point: democracy is a political system based on tolerance, but that tolerance ends where political factions pose a threat to that very tolerance. It is then incumbent on the democratic faction to remove from political influence, by the least worst means, the anti-democratic party and its supporters, and they would be right to do so. The current radical Republicans must be replaced with Eisenhower conservatives, or the US faces worsening political dysfunction (probably in regional forms, since radical conservatives are almost all confined to the midwest and south).

    Few people would miss the almost deranged hypocrisy in that passage.

    It’s all very well to talk about democratic rights, but there is no point to such rights unless you would defend them against those who would remove them.

    Dear God, what planet are you on??

    The friction between the White House and Fox is nothing but an amusing little slap-feast. It sounds to me like you’re the one advocating removing democratic rights.
    As long as the rules are sound, and the rules are adhered to, the opposition is not, and cannot threaten the democratic process.
    A good democratic structure is one that successfully resists factions within that could overturn that structure. Ultimately the biggest threat to stability comes not from the opposition but from those in power who would abuse that power – the Mugabe’s, Nixon’s, and Muldoon’s of this world.

  12. Quoth the Raven on October 28th, 2009 at 17:37

    The grassroots “mobilisations you refer to have been stage managed by the insurance and corporate health lobbies using outlets like Fox as their PR agents.

    I would have thought the insurance companies would be pretty happy now with Obama forcing people to buy their product and not addressing the lack of competition across states. And they have other reasons to be happy as well. As for the rest of the corporate health lobby big pharma is right in behind Obama’s plan and have put their money into it. The healthcare lobby has also put money in behind Democrats that oppose healthcare reform and Baucus himself got money from the healthcare lobby. So both sides are getting money from the healthcare lobby. So again I don’t see the point in the absurd factionalism on this site especially given how poor the Democrats are.

    From a congressman calling the president a liar during his address to Congress

    Maybe you can better inform me on this one, but from a New Zealand perspective I really don’t see how this is that bad. One can watch our parliament and see much worse.

    Yet most Left protest against the W. Bush administration’s illegal war in Iraq, its abuses of privacy under the so-called Patriot Act…

    Obama Sides with Republicans; PATRIOT Act Renewal Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Minus Critical Civil Liberties Reforms

  13. Ag on October 28th, 2009 at 17:45

    The rest of your post has little merit in my view, so I’ll just deal with these parts.

    The friction between the White House and Fox is nothing but an amusing little slap-feast. It sounds to me like you’re the one advocating removing democratic rights.

    No. My position is that democratic rights are contingent on fulfilling democratic obligations. People who do not fulfill their democratic obligations surrender their democratic rights. This is fundamental to any conception of democracy. The only question is what those obligations are. The point of Pablo’s article is that these obligations extend further than submitting to elections.

    As long as the rules are sound, and the rules are adhered to, the opposition is not, and cannot threaten the democratic process.

    This is a patently ridiculous argument. Of course “as long as the rules are adhered to” there is no problem. But it rather depends on what the rules are, doesn’t it? The concept of a “loyal opposition” is predicated on the idea that the “rules” by which a democracy operates extend further than just submitting to elections. It also involves certain standards of conduct. That’s the whole point of Pablo’s article, which you apparently did not read.

    A good democratic structure is one that successfully resists factions within that could overturn that structure.

    You’re ignoring the problem. What if the only way to prevent a faction from overturning the structure is to withdraw their democratic rights. To say that such a situation cannot happen is simply a matter of faith, because it has happened before. You’re simply defining a “good democratic structure” as one in which this will never happen, but you can’t really win an argument by definition, because it isn’t clear that such a system has ever existed, will ever exist or is even practically feasible.

    As with all democratic fundamentalists, your argument is a version of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    Ultimately the biggest threat to stability comes not from the opposition but from those in power who would abuse that power – the Mugabe’s, Nixon’s, and Muldoon’s of this world.

    Which is exactly what the Republicans were doing before they lost. In effect, they poisoned the well before they left.

    But what you say is false. It may well be that incumbent authoritarian governments are by nature a bigger threat to democracy, but that’s compatible with an authoritarian opposition being a sufficient threat to democracy to warrant action. Just what ought to be done is difficult to determine, as we were discussing in the previous post.

    Perhaps an even more significant threat to democracy comes from people who are democratic fundamentalists and who refuse to concede its limitations as a political system.

  14. Ag on October 28th, 2009 at 17:48

    Maybe you can better inform me on this one, but from a New Zealand perspective I really don’t see how this is that bad. One can watch our parliament and see much worse.

    It’s unprecedented. It is customary to respect the office of the Presidency by not doing such things when he is addressing congress (it’s acceptable for members to have a go at each other, because congress is a separate branch of government). It would be as if the Labour Party started yelling at John Key during an important state occasion, such as a Royal visit.

  15. Pablo on October 28th, 2009 at 18:01

    QtR:

    Ag answered your point about the “liar” comment. Coming from a South Carolina, pro-confederacy small-town loser, it speaks volumes as to what he and others really feel about this president.

    As for the rest. Surely you realise that the health, insurance and pharmaceutical industries played both sides of the fence, funding the opposition so as to force a Democratic compromise that catered to their interests. Of course many Dems are in their pockets–the US political system is greased by corporate money precisely so that significant reform is thwarted and the staus quo (largely) maintained.

    Obama’s caving on the Patriot Act and his waffling on criminal prosecution of Bush 43 officials for a wide range of crimes is no more than pragmatic political compromise.

    I am starting to think that it takes having lived through a period of disloyal opposition and subsequent coups for one to see the phenomena for what it is. Poeple who have had the privilege of living in a democracy their whole lives may not be as attuned to when opposition moves from loyal to disloyal, attributing it all to “freedom of speech” and normal democratic give and take. That is exactly what the disployal opposition wants the masses to believe.

  16. Quoth the Raven on October 28th, 2009 at 18:32

    As for the rest. Surely you realise that the health, insurance and pharmaceutical industries played both sides of the fence, funding the opposition so as to force a Democratic compromise that catered to their interests. Of course many Dems are in their pockets–the US political system is greased by corporate money precisely so that significant reform is thwarted and the staus quo (largely) maintained.

    Yes that’s the point I was making a point that you failed to make in your above comment and that makes the Insurance companies backing of the Repbulicans not seem so threatening. It’s just the norm in American politics. State and corporate power are largely mutually supportive. The insurance and pharmaceutical businesses see advantage for themselves in the Democrats “reform”. Big pharma gets longer patency &c and insurance companies get a captured market.

    I am starting to think that it takes having lived through a period of disloyal opposition and subsequent coups for one to see the phenomena for what it is. Poeple who have had the privilege of living in a democracy their whole lives may not be as attuned to when opposition moves from loyal to disloyal, attributing it all to “freedom of speech” and normal democratic give and take. That is exactly what the disployal opposition wants the masses to believe.

    Do you actually believe that a coup is likely in the US?

  17. Andrew W on October 28th, 2009 at 18:49

    That is exactly what the disloyal opposition wants the masses to believe.

    I feel a conspiracy theory coming on.

    From a congressman calling the president a liar during his address to Congress

    I disagree with QtR on this one, for such an outburst Rep. Wilson should have been reprimanded and been asked to apologies.

    Oh wait, he was and he did.

  18. Pablo on October 28th, 2009 at 19:19

    QtR:

    Corporate self interest and influence in politics is a separate issue to what I focused on in the article. What the corporates want is a reaffirmation of the status quo, while the disloyal zealots want to destroy it (in part to prevent someone like Obama ever again achieving presidential office).

    Although there is no military coup imminent (which I noted in the article), there is such a thing as an institutional coup (as opposed to the uninsitutionalised version called a military coup). The attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton was one such attempt, and it is likely only a matter of time before something similar happens to Obama. Again: this is not normal democratic give and take–this is deliberately subversive.

    Andrew W.:

    No conspiracy theory forthcoming, so limit yourself to commenting on what I did write (assuming that you have read the article). As for Wilson. His apology was contrived, insincere, and he qualified it in front of his local SC audiences to say that he apologised to Congress but not “this” president. As for the reprimand–again, formulaic and done along partisan lines.

  19. Ag on October 28th, 2009 at 21:21

    Do you actually believe that a coup is likely in the US?

    I don’t, but is another McVeigh wholly unlikely in the present climate?

  20. Andrew W on October 28th, 2009 at 21:29

    His apology was contrived, insincere, and he qualified it in front of his local SC audiences to say that he apologised to Congress but not “this” president. As for the reprimand–again, formulaic and done along partisan lines.

    Wilson spokesman Ryan Murphy indicated the congressman will not apologize on the House floor.
    Murphy told the Associated Press Wilson “apologized to the president and the president accepted and said let’s move on and have a civil discourse, and the congressman agrees.”
    …”Rep. Wilson apologized to the President, and the President accepted his apology. As the Speaker said yesterday, now it’s time to talk about health care,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

    Perhaps you should have mentioned in your article that an apology had been given, as you left the impression that it had not.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/house/58331-dems-lay-plans-to-scold-wilson

  21. Pablo on October 28th, 2009 at 23:41

    Andrew:

    You are missing the forest for the trees.

  22. Andrew W on October 29th, 2009 at 05:56

    Or perhaps you’re following the human instinct to demonise those you see as your adversaries, you are a Democrat?

  23. Andrew W on October 29th, 2009 at 06:23

    From the essay at Scoop:

    The more pertinent issue here is whether the Fox Network and its ideological kin on talk radio and in the Republican Party are behaving in a disloyal manner. Adjusting for the US context, by all measures they are.

    From Wiki:

    the term loyal opposition is applied to the opposition parties in the legislature to indicate that the non-governing parties may oppose the actions of the sitting cabinet – typically comprised of parliamentarians from the party with the most seats in the elected legislavice chamber – while maintaining loyalty to the source of the government’s power.

    The Republican party may be unprincipled in their methods, but they’re not even close to being “disloyal opposition” as the term is normally defined.

  24. Scott Yorke on October 29th, 2009 at 07:19

    The friction between the White House and Fox is nothing but an amusing little slap-feast.

    I would suggest it is a bit more than that. The political climate is poisonous, with Obama and the Democrats being compared to Hitler, Stalin and other dictators. People are taking firearms to town-hall meetings.

    Fox News viewers are told regularly that Obama wants to destroy democracy and that he’s a tyrant in waiting. So we should not be surprised if some of those viewers eventually decide to take action.

    That action could take the form of an assassination attempt, or a bombing. Someone upthread mentioned the possibility of another McVeigh.

    It won’t be so amusing then.

  25. Hugh on October 29th, 2009 at 10:42

    Pablo:

    You would really say that the left did not try to provoke civic distrust in George Bush? Really? Perhaps you should explain what you mean by ‘civic distrust’, since it seems to be quite different from just regular distrust, which the left certainly did try to create in George Bush (not that he didn’t create a lot of it himself).

    As for the Wilson thing, I think your comment here is illustrative:

    “Coming from a South Carolina, pro-confederacy small-town loser, it speaks volumes as to what he and others really feel about this president.”

    In other words, you feel the problem is not so much that he called the President a liar (happened to Bush plenty, again) but that in calling the President a liar he was actually exposing some deeper antipathy to the President, African-Americans, the United States, or possibly all three. If that’s the case, it seems to me that focusing on the surface act (eg the accusation of lying) is a mistake.

  26. Pablo on October 29th, 2009 at 13:38

    Andrew:

    Now you are being mendacious. Undergraduate students get flunked for using Wiki in their essays, so using it as a source for a limited conception of disloyal opposition demonstrates that you did not fully read the article (which has a more robust definition) or are being willfully ignorant. I say the latter because in using the limited definition you, again, have missed the point of the article. Since this is not the place to give you a tutorial on comparative politics, I suggest that you read more than wiki in order to inform your views on subjects that you are clearly not familiar with. Either that, or rest comfortable in your opinions without regard to their substantive grounding.

    As for me being a Democrat–wrong. I am one of those independent swing voters that people like to think are the key variable in US electoral politics. I am not so sure about that but obviously enough I do tend to vote more Left than Right (I tend to lean right on issues of security and law and order).

    Hugh: I stand by my comment that nothing the Left (such as it is) in the US did in the way of dissent against the Bush 43 regime comes close to the orchestrated disloyalty being exhibited towards Obama. As for my using the Wilson quote among the dozen or so other examples–yes, I used it for its symbolism of the visceral hatred and contempt for Obama felt by some sectors of the US population (the very ones being rabble roused by the likes of Fox etc.). I thought you would have picked that up from the onset, and am sorry if that was not the case.

  27. Hugh on October 29th, 2009 at 15:15

    And I’m sorry to have disappointed you, Pablo.

    So let me get this straight – telling people that the President is a war criminal who deserves to be impeached for breaking international law doesn’t count as trying to create disloyalty?

    And even if it did – is ‘loyalty to the President’ really a value that we want to privilege in a democratic regime? I mean, hell, I don’t feel loyal to the Prime Minister – this one, or the last one. Is this a problem?

  28. Pablo on October 29th, 2009 at 15:36

    Hugh:

    You do not disappoint me. In fact, I have grown to expect the critical tone of your comments, which I take as fair play. But I do feel that I am just repeating myself now and that we are talking past each other. The whole point of the article is that it is not just “this” president to which the disloyal opposition objects. It is the very institutional framework that allowed him to get elected to which they now object (again, the article explicates this in some detail).

    Calling for a presidential impeachment because of purported breaches of international law (to say nothing of lying to Congress) upholds the institutional framework because it is both constitutional and within the boundaries of loyal dissent. Calling for people to arm themselves and to resist the socialist/Kenyan/Muslim “assault” on American values is quite something else. “Loyalty” in a democracy is always given to the process and framework, never to a person (or, for that matter, a particular government), so your distaste for the last two PMs (which I share) is not equivalent to disloyalty.

  29. Ag on October 29th, 2009 at 18:49

    So let me get this straight – telling people that the President is a war criminal who deserves to be impeached for breaking international law doesn’t count as trying to create disloyalty?

    Bush was breaking international law… The Republicans had completely undermined the norms of federal legislation. A decently readable account is this, from Matt Taibbi

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/12055360/cover_story_time_to_go_inside_the_worst_congress_ever/print

    Tell me what law, foreign or domestic, has Obama’s health care proposal broken? I’m not a constitutional scholar, and I’m not a US citizen, so I will defer to Pablo on this, but my understanding is that the Constitution allows for the federal government to provide for the public welfare.

  30. SPC on October 29th, 2009 at 19:20

    The right wing opposition to the current government leadership is consistent with a central premise, Christian Republican America or un-American (secular left) liberalism. Such language was common in the post WW2 period and was used in both the USA and West Germany (Adenauer’s Christian Democrat Union, of a Europe divided against the left). Its current use is of both this origin and the politicisation of Christianity in the USA back in the 1970’s – as a natural consequence of end time religion and a greater faith in Christ coming to earth to rule than commitment to sustaining a constitutional democracy.

    I would go so far to say this Christian identification for right wing political purposes was their response to the end of the HUAC committee in the early 70′s. And note which politician built their career in HUAC in the late 1940′s R. M. Nixon.

  31. Phil Sage on November 1st, 2009 at 03:57

    Pablo – You have written an interesting article that ultimately misses the point of legitimate democratic opposition and illegitimate state activity. Froim your article

    the conservative bloc in the Chilean Congress refused to engage in any substantive compromises with Allende’s minority government, and instead used procedural rules and points of order to engage in stalling tactics in order to thwart Allende’s proposed reforms…
    The degree of disloyalty was such that it is reported that Allende could not even get funding for a refurbishment of the National Stadium …, much less get a single law passed.

    He was thus forced to rule by decree

    He was thus forced to rule by decree
    He was thus FORCED to rule by decree.

    He was not forced to do anything of the sort. He did not like the tactics being used against him and did not want to follow due process that previous legitimate governments had passed into law. Allende chose to counter the underhand but legal and democratic tactics of his opposition by usurping the democratically elected Congress where he obviously did not have the support to pass laws and ruling by decree.

    You further legitimised the violent actions of his supporters.

    He was thus forced to rule by decree, with his more militant left supporters deciding to fight fire with fire by engaging in direct action tactics of their own (including land and factory seizures and armed assaults on rightist groups). That only confirmed in the minds of the conservative civilian and military hierarchies that Communism was taking root in that society. The coup was their response

    On the one hand the right were using legitimate democratic tools at their disposal and that justifies violence and expropriation of property to you?

    No doubt the CIA influenced things but they do not control the masses.

    A few facts from your favourite research tool wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende.

    Allende won the 1970 Chilean presidential election as leader of the Unidad Popular (“Popular Unity”) coalition. On September 4, 1970, he obtained a narrow plurality of 36.2 percent to 34.9 percent over Jorge Alessandri, a former president, with 27.8 percent going to a third candidate (Radomiro Tomic) of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC)
    In the first year of Allende’s term, the short-term economic results of Minister of the Economy Pedro Vuskovic’s expansive monetary policy were favorable: 12% industrial growth and an 8.6% increase in GDP, accompanied by major declines in inflation (down from 34.9% to 22.1%) and unemployment (down to 3.8%). However by 1972, the Chilean escudo had an inflation rate of 140%. The average Real GDP contracted between 1971 and 1973 at an annual rate of 5.6% (“negative growth”); and the government’s fiscal deficit soared while foreign reserves declined [Flores, 1997: source requires title/publisher]. The combination of inflation and government-mandated price-fixing, together with the “disappearance” of basic commodities from supermarket shelves, led to the rise of black markets in rice, beans, sugar, and flour.[20] The Chilean economy also suffered as a result of a US campaign against the Allende government.[21]
    The price of copper fell from a peak of $66 per ton in 1970 to only $48–9 in 1971 and 1972.[28] Chile was already dependent on food imports, and this decline in export earnings coincided with declines in domestic food production following Allende’s agrarian reforms

    So Allende destroyed an economy in 3 short years. Only authoritarian socialism can achieve that. Yet you imply that the strikes were simply CIA backed mischief raising rather than a natural, albeit possibly enhanced, reaction to political mismanagement.

    My point is not to justify the coup at all. It is simply to state that the first actions of the Allende era opposition were legitimate in a democracy. Allende was opposed by both the Supreme Court and the Congress prior to the end but refused to back down on his path. I find the position in Honduras this year to be similar.

    But on to Obama and the US. The great strength of the US is its checks and balances. There is a democratic right to protest and for the legislature to limit abuses by the Executive.

    It is my current and previously expressed belief that the Republican party is undergoing a very public meltdown. They wont be entrusted with power until they get themselves under control or until they are the lesser evil compared with a fatally indecisive Obama.

    As an aside Obama’s Senate voting record record of more “Present” votes than any other is making itself obvious as an indication of the flaw behind the oratory.

    America’s public debate is robust. You could equally view the anti-Vietnam and anti-Iraq war protests as disloyal by giving succour to the enemy. They may do that but they are legitimate democratic activity and very much part of what those soldiers have gone to war to defend. And Fox is entitled broadcast whatever it may. Congressmen are entitled to show whatever disrespect they will. Armed protesters are entitled to visually demonstrate their rights.

    That is all part of a democracy. Attempting to censor any media outlet by preventing them from being part of media reporting is not legitimate state activity as well as being ineffective, weak and counter productive

    My apologies for the long post but the space was required to rebut your basic premise.

  32. Pablo on November 1st, 2009 at 15:14

    Phil S:
    I was wondering if you would show up. But this comment is a disappointment. Besides using wiki idiot (which I assume you did just to bust my chops), you selectively cherry picked quotes from my article and overall missed my point. I suggest that you read the Church Committee’s report on US involvement in Chile (available as the “Church Report” from the Congressional publication service–Frank Church being the Senator who led the hearings on US involvement in the 1973 coup). That will disabuse you of the notion that the US was only marginally involved, or what the Right was doing against Allende was merely hardball opposition (you left out my mention of right-wing paramilitary squads attacking leftist targets in the run-up to the coup, which included several assassinations).

    Allende was elected by a plurality (according to Chilean constitutiona law) because the Right vote splintered in 1970. The Right then reunified as a disloyal opposition to him, and with 60 percent of the congressional seats, they could thwart him at every turn. A US parallel would be the Gingrich-led congressional refusal to pass the 1996 budget signed by Bill Clinton, which led to two federal government shutdowns in the space of six months. Clinton had no legal authority to rule by decree so had to allow the shutdown to occur, whereas Allende had the legal authority to use decrees to prevent such from occurring.

    Allende was therefore forced to rule by decree because he could not even pass a budget. Read this clearly: He had no option but to resort to the legal authority to rule by decree granted to the Chilean presidency. He was within his legal rights, given the situation, to do so.

    Your selective use of economic data also avoids the issue of the US embargo on Chilean goods, particularly copper (which is Chile’s largest revenue generator and which had the US as its major market), as well as the wave of capital flight and disinvestment by foreign (mostly US) firms in the wake of his election (and before the nationalisations started). Plus the US suspended all exports to Chile, which counted the US as its major import market.

    The fact is that during the first two years of his rule Allende tried to negotiate with his opposition, but their disloyalty was such that no compromise was possible given US support for the latter (remember Kissinger’s famous statement after Allende’s election that he would “not allow Chile to go communist due to the stupidity of its people?”).

    As I said before, I do not see a coup in the US near future. But that was not the point of my article. The point is that, adjusted for the US context, the conservative opposition to Obama has started to manifest obvious disloyal characteristics, something you have to be willfully blind not to see. It has no parallel with either the opposition to Bush 43 and his illegal war, or to Vietnam (which was an opposition that was generalised and which was directed at both Democratic as well as Republican administrations). So there is simply no comparison to be made between these phenomena.

    At least you have the honesty to admit that the GOP is imploding. That is a major reason why its extremist wing has resorted to disloyalty.

  33. Hugh on November 1st, 2009 at 23:33

    Pablo

    Isn’t people arming themselves something that’s also legally valid under US law? Certainly no more illegal than calling for impeachment.

    But really it seems the thrust of your argument is that a certain ammount of loyalty is expected from everybody in a democracy – if not to individuals, to offices. I’m not sure whether you feel this loyalty was owed and exercised to Bush, or if he somehow forfeited it in a way Obama hasn’t – to be blunt I’m not really interesting in debating what I find to be a rather arcane point.

    My point is simply this – the idea of ‘loyalty’ as a central value of a political system smacks to me of authoritarianism. ‘Disloyalty’ is not an artifact of authoritarianism, quite the contrary. This is not to say authoritarians cannot be disloyal – there are plenty of conflicting authoritarianisms out there.

    And to get back to my personal point, let me clarify – I feel no loyalty to the persons of any Prime Minister we’ve had during my lifetime, or to the office. The Prime Minister’s office is merely an executive office – one with more power than any other, admittedly, but that’s not a consideration that makes me want to be loyal to the office. Does this put me in a boat with the teabaggers?

    I’m not necessarily arguing for total disgust towards all political processes and offices, but to me ‘loyalty’ speaks of allegiance that’s given ‘just because’ rather than as a result of any rational process. If you want to talk about the allegiance people give out of a belief that the office/process is the best one practical, that’s a phenomenon that, to me, is better described by terms other than ‘loyalty’ – ‘investment’ or ‘buy-in’ spring to mind.

  34. Pablo on November 1st, 2009 at 23:58

    Fine Hugh:

    Call it investment or buy in if you will, but allegiance in a democracy is to the system and process as the best of all alternatives (or evils).

    As for your gun remark. It may be legal to bear arms but it is a right that should not be abused–sort of like not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Showing up armed to presidential rallies is such a provocation, as are frivolous calls for impeachment (such as what the Republicans did to Clinton over an Oval Office BJ). Note that even though they had much more grounds to do so, the Democrats never tried to impeach Bush 43 (which may have been more out of cowardice than principle, but at least showed self-restraint in recognition of the implications).

    BTW–just watched Beck today. He was in prime form, ranting abut revolutionaries then and now, with the “originals” being about freedom and individual choice while those in office today (he had a line up of Obama appointee photos) as being “Unamerican” commies and socialists. He said that Americans had to “choose sides.”

    The fact that he lionised a bunch of dead white guys who practiced slavery was completely lost of on him, but it made for good theater–and reaffirmed my point.

  35. Ag on November 2nd, 2009 at 00:54

    My point is simply this – the idea of ‘loyalty’ as a central value of a political system smacks to me of authoritarianism. ‘Disloyalty’ is not an artifact of authoritarianism, quite the contrary. This is not to say authoritarians cannot be disloyal – there are plenty of conflicting authoritarianisms out there.

    I think you have it wrong about democracy. A democratic system is implicitly anti-authoritarian because it is based on consent. By voting each of us agrees to recognize the votes of others in exchange for having our own vote recognized by others. That’s why it is illegitimate for you to attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government – you are breaking the agreement you freely made with other voters. If you voted just as a means of getting your own way, then anyone else has the right to ignore your vote.

    Part of what Pablo is getting at, and I’m sure he’ll correct me if I am mistaken, is that the basic democratic agreement logically requires us to accept some other restrictions on our own activity in opposition to an elected government. In particular, we can’t engage in activity that is itself corrosive of democratic institutions, because that also violates the agreement you made, or principles which can be logically derived from that agreement. You have to exhibit loyalty to the institution even when you don’t win.

    But all of this is founded on your own consent, which you freely gave by voting, so to call it authoritarian is to miss the mark,

  36. Phil Sage on November 2nd, 2009 at 06:18

    Interesting points all. I will admit backing the Allende opposition is a pretty hairy example to be using to make the point.

    Ag & Pablo seem to be taking the position that some loyalty is expected. Hugh and myself that democratic opposition should be allowed to be robust.

    Pablo is just being silly when he dismisses the constitutional founders of the USA as slavers. They were that but they also established a remarkably sound governance structure that the world looks to for leadership.

    Where I differ from Hugh and agree with Pablo is that personally and I believe most people are loyal to the office if not the person. It is the fact of the democratically elected office that provides legitimacy.

    Where I differ from Pablo is that I recognise there are multiple elected representatives. That is part of the balance. No President is owed loyalty simply because he is President.

    Pablo & Ag seem to have a lower threshold for opposition as being “disloyal” than myself & Hugh.

    We are down to splitting the hair of what amount of opposition is legitimate. We are agreed that coups and conspiring to overthrow a legitimate government by force is not legitimate. Beyond that we get into highly subjective judgement. Using your democratically elected office to attempt to thwart plans of those in government strikes me as being at the very heart of a pluralist democracy. Anything else is elected dictatorship.

  37. Phil Sage on November 2nd, 2009 at 06:20

    And Pablo – Clinton’s impeachment was over the cover up, not the act.

  38. Phil Sage on November 2nd, 2009 at 06:25

    Lets agree the common ground and then address the role of the media and whether Beck ranting constitutes inciting a coup or other violent removal of the President.

    And Pablo – I love Wiki and X Factor. They are both highly democratic. of the people, by the people and for the people.

  39. Phil Sage on November 2nd, 2009 at 06:32

    And Pablo. Last word on Allende. He would have done better to follow the path that Erdogan has done. It takes longer but carries the will of the people along with it. Turkey has changes its geostrategic stance since he took power but it has happened quietly and with subtlety. Turkey seems to have determined that it is unlikely to gain EU membership and has chosen to show regional leadership instead.

    You will recall his party is avowedly Islamic, but that has not resulted in a coup and the military are steadily being more democratically constrained.

  40. Phil Sage on November 6th, 2009 at 20:40

    David Frum on Obama http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6905273.ece

    The President’s defenders offer three excuses for this thin record. First, he has had to contend with a uniquely uncooperative Republican opposition. Second, he still has plenty of time left to accomplish great things, and third, the savage recession has cramped his freedom of action.

    Excuse No 1 is true but irrelevant. The President’s party holds big majorities in both the House and Senate, the largest enjoyed by any president since Lyndon Johnson.

  41. Pablo on November 6th, 2009 at 21:36

    But Phil, the irony is this: in this weeks elections “moderate” Republican candidates running on local-issue platforms won the VA and NJ governorships (the latter being quite a coup and a blow to the Dems). But the candidate for the NY District 23 by-election favoured by the disloyal zealots lost what was a GOP seat for the last 100 years. The rest of the elections held on Nov 3 played out according to local issues and political preferences. So the result is a mixed bag that urges caution for the Dems, gives some hope to the moderate GOP, but which augers poorly for the disloyal opposition. Maybe the masses are not asses after all. Next year’s midterm elections will provide concrete evidence one way or another, since all House seats and a number of Senate seats and governorships are up for grabs.

  42. Pascal's bookie on November 6th, 2009 at 22:01

    Unfortunately for Obama Phil, the GOP is filibustering at a record rate in the senate with a fight for cloture on just about everything. So the majority there isn’t what it seems. No other President has faced the same level of opposition. Traditionally the Senate acts with far more bi partisanship from the minority party.

    One thing I remember from a few years back, was a competition run by moveon.org where ads were submitted from the public to a website. One of these ads compared GWB to Hitler, and there was a great hue and cry. Even though the ad was pulled down from the website in short order, there was bipartisan condemnation from the congress with motions being passed decrying it.

    Today the GOP hosted a protest in DC. Banners on display were what we have come to expect from the tea baggers.

    One had a picture of stacked corpses in a Nazi death camp, with the caption reading somehing like “Obamacare: Germany 1940′s’.

    Another alleged that Obama was in cahoots with the “Rothchilds”. (Whatever could that be all about?)

    Far from there being a bipartisan condemnation of this, GOP congress critters said that these were just signs of voter outrage and frustration.

    Bush launched wars based on lies.
    Obama is trying to pass a health care package.
    Go figure huh?

  43. Phil Sage on November 7th, 2009 at 11:12

    PB – Congress has a 2 year term and there were 120 cloture votes (filibusterbusters) in the last bush term or say 60 per year. There have been 31 this calendar year. http://www.filibusted.us/congress So do you think you are presenting facts or buying into bs. There is a subtle but important difference between the main democrat fundraiser organisation calling bushitler and some random nut banner.

    Pablo – interesting I had not heard about the third but the two republican wins were not presented as moderates in UK media but as a defeat for obama. The reality remains to be seen.

    With obama having control of both houses it would be nice if he could make a decision and present a policy rather than vacillate and leave it to others.

  44. Pascal's bookie on November 7th, 2009 at 12:11

    So that 60 per year in the last congress of Bush final term. Who was in the minority then? Look at the graph in your link. That big spike? That’s the GOP losing their majority.

    There is a subtle but important difference between the main democrat fundraiser organisation calling bushitler and some random nut banner.

    A few points.

    1)Moveon is not an arm of the Democratic party.

    2)The ad was not from them, but from a random nutter as you put it.

    3)Moveon promptly took the ad down, and had a sense of the house motion passed, bipartisanly, decrying them.

    vs

    4))The protest the other day was called and hosted by the official GOP.

    5) Gop congresscritters were speaking there, and defended the banners.

    You are right, there is no comparison.

  45. Sagenz on November 8th, 2009 at 00:27

    1)Moveon is not an arm of the Democratic party.

    If you are comfortable with such false distinctions so be it
    Just because the GOP called the rally does not mean they control individuals actions in raising a banner

    The analogy is anyway apt. British cancercare rationing kills many people that would live in the us. Look at the stats

  46. Pascal's bookie on November 8th, 2009 at 13:11

    I see you are in one of your little trolling moods phil, but still.

    Moveon is simply not a part of the official Democratic party. They are a grass roots liberal organisation. The point however is that they are certainly less a part of the Democratic party than the GOP congress critters that hosted the recent teabagging event in DC.

    Just because the GOP called the rally does not mean they control individuals actions in raising a banner

    Quite so Phil. This is my point. Moveon was in the same position. The bush/hitler ad was exactly like the banners. It was a submission from some ‘nutter’. But I repeat myself.

    The analogy is anyway apt. British cancercare rationing kills many people that would live in the us.

    Sheesh. Which is exactly like Dachau. Dachau was just like an NHS hospital? I know you sometimes dig deep into the barrel for your rhetorical needs, but holocaust denial Phil? Really?

    If you’re comfortable with that then so be it I guess.

  47. Sagenz on November 9th, 2009 at 00:58

    Pb. The troll comment had me LOL you got me bang to rights ok the repub filibustering.
    On holocaust denial you are a long way off the mark. As I recalled it was a picture of a stack of corpses that offended. The nhs attitude to rationing care is all about the money.

    Whilst making the comparison could be considered offensive it is not in the same planet as comparing someone to hitler.

  48. Pascal's bookie on November 9th, 2009 at 09:06

    As I recalled it was a picture of a stack of corpses that offended. The nhs attitude to rationing care is all about the money.

    The caption was “”National Socialist Health Care: Dachau, Germany — 1945,”

    Not sure how that translates to “Current British cancer treatment under the NHS”.

    And insurance companies quite famously don’t take finacial considerations into account when they deny coverage, it’s pure spite.

  49. Tom Semmens on November 10th, 2009 at 08:47

    I think Hone Harawira has just given us an excellent demonstration of “disloyal opposition”. Here is a man, an elected member of Her Majesty’s House of Representatives, who clearly holds the institution – and by extension the government it represents – in utter contempt.

    His comments contain an explicit racist attack on 80% of the population and implicit call to his minority group that they are entitled to engage in – at the very least – low level illegal activity as a justifiable form of payback to the “colonial” government.

    Disgraceful. He should resign from the house if that is what he really thinks of it as a democratic institution. Only he won’t, because, just the like Glenn Becks on Fox, disloyal, bullying bluster is fine as long as it doesn’t hit him in the pocket personally.

Leave a Reply

Name: (required)
Email: (required) (will not be published)
Website:
Comment: