The Vanity of Liberal Perfectionism

Robert Parry wrote a fantastic item about the self-defeating tendencies of the far-left, and the trendy refusal to accept the president’s successes — including the end of the Iraq war. This passage was particularly solid:

However, some on the American Left operate under what might be called “the vanity of perfectionism,” the notion that what’s most important is to have the “perfect” analysis even if its consequences are destructive to mankind.

Thus, flawed political leaders who compromise are judged as no better than extremely dangerous ones who would initiate wars like the bloody mess in Iraq – or who would ignore long-term threats like global warming.

In Campaign 2000, Al Gore had shortcomings, but he was not the same as George W. Bush. To pretend otherwise was not only wrongheaded, it was reckless. It kept the race close enough for Bush to steal the White House.

The result was that many people died unnecessarily and the future of the planet was put at greater risk by Bush’s hostility to warnings about global warming.

And this section, regarding the SOFA and the end of the war, relates to something I wrote yesterday:

This final withdrawal of U.S. troops at the insistence of the Iraqi government – and with Obama’s acquiescence – is a very big deal. Oddly, it is being acknowledged more by the Right than the Left, with prominent Republicans condemning Obama’s announcement as an admission of U.S. defeat.

That’s because the neocons saw Bush’s SOFA as only a holding action and expected that the U.S. government would twist the arms of the Iraqis to get them to accept a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. The neocons are now condemning Obama for not doing so.

But none of this plays to the disillusioned neo-PUMAs on the far-left who are more content to whine and stomp than to accept facts and political realities, as well as to the bloggers who have decided to milk this demographic.

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  • http://twitter.com/JPFrankenstein JPFrankenstein

    Bob – I don’t disagree with you on the petulance of some of the far left, however posts like this one do little to help our overall cause. You highlighted a portion of Parry’s article which suggests that it was the far left who was responsible for Gore’s defeat in 2000 because they felt he was too similar to Bush??

    This neatly avoids 2 important issues: Ralph Nader and Florida, neither of which have anything to do with how the left perceived Gore at the time.

    Yes, sometimes Firedoglake loses their heads out of frustration, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to criticize those in power when we disagree with them.

    Did I vote for Obama? Yes. do I agree with predator drone strikes on 16 year old Americans? No. Will I vote for Obama again? Yes.

    • gobrooklyn

      Predator drone strikes on 16 year old Americans?

      One thing I love about articles like this is that people come out in the comments and prove the author’s point while being completely unaware that they are doing it.

    • http://twitter.com/Scootabuddha Vincenzo T.

      But wasn’t Ralph Nader’s spoilerrific ascendency in that cycle due to the “They’re all the same” mentality that was going around? I think that’s the pernt of the post.

      Adding: I have to say that I’ve never seen this blog as shirking the responsibility (or the opportunity) to rationally call to task the Obama administration for its actions and policies when appropriate–without degenerating into FDL territory. In fact, it is a constant refrain here.

      • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

        >>But wasn’t Ralph Nader’s spoilerrific ascendency in that cycle due to the “They’re all the same” mentality that was going around?

        Oh yes!

        >>I’ve never seen this blog as shirking the responsibility (or the opportunity) to rationally call to task the Obama administration for its actions and policies when appropriate–without degenerating into FDL territory.

        Example: I was vehemently opposed to the debt ceiling deal.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      uh, yeah. And they championed Nader.

      WAKE THE HELL UP!!

      Adding…….FDL is not about “criticism”; it is about destruction. And with that destruction, should it be successful, comes the destruction of our democracy.

    • http://phydeauxpseaks.blogspot.com Bob Rutledge

      You highlighted a portion of Parry’s article which suggests that it was the far left who was responsible for Gore’s defeat in 2000 because they felt he was too similar to Bush??

      And you didn’t read (or if you read, didn’t absorb) the last sentence in that paragraph of the quote, which said:

      It kept the race close enough for Bush to steal the White House.

      which places the ‘responsibility’ back on Florida. And, implicitly, the Supreme Court, which you “neatly avoid” mentioning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Olivarez/1281985566 Bob Olivarez

    Let the excuses fly. What the “left” wants is a fighter, not a guy who folds as soon as someone thinks about holding his’/her breath and that has been Obamas problem, hence, the nations problem. Compromise is nice, but when you can’t have that, then you go balls to the wall instead of continuing to fold like a deck of cards and passing doubly watered down legislations.
    But go ahead, give us more “excuses”. At least we have the balls to hold our elected reps accountable and actually do something about it instead of like the last administration where party meant more than what was right.
    And that is my opinion. Sadly, I will have no choice but to vote for Obama. I get it, he’s the best we have and is far far superior to the rights current candidates…but we can do better and we should continue to insist on better instead of coming up with excuses.

    • villemar
    • missliberties

      The vanity of perfectionism, dear Bob.

      Do you know how many serfs worked 12 hours a day for mere pennies, in a land far away, so that you could type that on your computer, while the plutocratic hegemony made huge profits from your pocket book!! Dude you are a part of THE problem. Get right with your bad self.

    • Treading_Water

      There’s a difference between insisting on better and using every single action by the president to tear him down. There have been successes during this administration, as well as setbacks. It would be nice to have a hard fighting lefty like Paul Wellstone in office, but we never had that choice. What we have is a pragmatic moderate somewhat left of center corporatist. In November, we will have the choice of reelecting that pragmatic somewhat progressive candidate or one of the clown car of crazy that today represents the Republican Party. Sadly, most of the public takes it’s cues from cable news, and that “liberal” bastion is much more interested in amplifying the horse race aspects of the election than ever actually investigating or fact checking the candidates. So, it doesn’t help to have the left whining loudly that “Obummer is just like Bush” when it simply isn’t true.

      It’s not that we shouldn’t criticize the President, it’s just that we should also applaud the successes when we can, just to help balance that constant negative drumbeat coming from the media, the Republicans, and the purity obsessed left.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      >>then you go balls to the wall instead of continuing to fold like a deck of cards

      That’s fine in poker when the stakes are low. Not so smart when millions of lives are on the line.

  • missliberties

    If there is one human suffering on earth, it must be the President’s fault, somehow. And democrats are just like republicans.

    I honestly have come to loathe the far left and their vanity of perfection. I don’t see how they are any different than the far right. I really don’t.

    • drsquid

      Their willful ignorance of political realities combined with their insistence on the perfect means that the far left are simply functional conservatives.

      • missliberties

        Well you said that a lot nicer than I. I would call the far left functioning idiots.

        Good Lord after all we have been through that shows us the dramatic striking contrasts you would think these freaking idiots would know better.

  • MatherZ

    Again with this “far-left” terminology. I know you, Bob, hate it as much as I do when Certain People control the language of a debate, and framing those who think that taxes for billionaires could go as high as 35% and that people shouldn’t lose their house because they had to choose between the mortgage and the medical bills as “far–left” doesn’t help.

    Even just saying “American Left” to describe a group that would be center-right in any other country in the world just a) legitimizes the right’s claim that they’re more centrist (and therefore more “everyman”) than they are, and b) allows the right to depict anyone who supports single-payer health care and caring for the environment as a left-wing extremist.

    Ask anyone in Europe, or Asia, or really anywhere other than the US what the “far-left” is, and you’ll know that there hasn’t been any meaningful far-left in North America in a long, long time. It’s not far-left vs. right in the US, it’s center-right vs. kooky-extremist right. To call Obama a socialist or a Marxist just means that you don’t own a dictionary.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Then how else should I describe certain groupings and demographics of Americans without being overly wordy?

      • http://phydeauxpseaks.blogspot.com Bob Rutledge

        How ’bout an acronym?

        JADARBL (j’DAR-bull)): Just As Delusional As Republicans, But Lefty

        Glad to be of service. :)

      • MatherZ

        I like “the Relative Left”, but even that’s a bit much. Go ahead and say “left”, but when you say “far-left” you’re calling YOURSELF a Communist, when you’re certainly not. If you called yourself a “centrist”, you’d be the most accurate of all, political-spectrum-wise.

        Plus calling yourself “far-left” is totally buying into the Fox News narrative of “Obama supporters are a bunch of Marxist extremist loons, and we should oppose them on principle. And all of their apparently valid points are completely invalid because they’re coming from the FAR left, not even the normal left because boy, those guys are extremists!”

        So anyway, I guess I can live with “left”, though that’s inaccurate. “Far-left” is so inaccurate as to be dangerous.

    • Plantsmantx

      You’re right, MatherZ. When I think of the “far left”, I think of people like Ward Churchill. I don’t believe that the people referred to in the post (Huffington, Uygur, Hamsher, Moulitsas…?) can be equated with someone like Churchill. Many of Obama’s most passionate supporters are given to playing shell games with center to left-of-center ideological identifiers. For instance, in the context of this post, PUMAs, or diehard supporters of Hillary Clinton, are suddenly “far leftists”. Or “far leftists” are suddenly PUMAs…or something.

      • MatherZ

        Right. Single-payer health care isn’t leftist. The UK has actual nationalized health care, and they’re not what you’d call a far-left society by any means.
        Regulating free enterprise isn’t leftist – the US doesn’t have a state oil company (and no, handing out billions to privately-owned Big Oil doesn’t count), though lots of non-leftist countries do.

        Anyway, the list goes on about all the predominantly slightly-right-of-center policies that get called “far left” in the US. It’s just a term used to de-legitimize those policies by making them sound extreme. If the rest of us buy into it, we’re only hurting ourselves.

  • dildenusa

    Well, I had to google PUMA so I could comment on this post. Urban dictionary said a PUMA is a woman out looking for younger men. Then I had to add the word “political” in front of my PUMA search and that got it.

    There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism while helping the person you are criticising to become a better person, do their job better and more efficiently, etc. But problems occur when people sit on the sidelines and become Monday morning coaches and quarterbacks. My advice to the PUMAs is, “get up off your butt and do something to make the world a better place.”

    If we had people criticising Bush we might have avoided a costly meaningless war. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton thought that co-opting the republicans on deregulation and welfare reform would result in a democratic dynasty. They brushed off criticism. President Obama is doing the same thing with his policies. Co-opting. Today, the stakes are much higher. Why give your enemy ammunition?

    • missliberties

      Keyword = constructive.

      To be constructive you first have to have a grip on the facts and a strong firm hold on reality.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      PUMA = “Party Unity My Ass”.

    • drsquid

      We did have people criticizing Bush. They ended up getting visits from the FBI for their troubles.