Friday, August 21, 2009

With Friends Like These...

"So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back."

-- Paul Krugman in an editorial in today's New York Times

I'm not one of those people who listens to right-wing radio, even occasionally, looking for something to piss him off. If I wanted to make myself angry for no good reason, I'd call my estranged wife -- or maybe put on a Phish record.

That said, I was flipping through Sirius XM radio a couple of days ago when I stumbled across the America Right or "Patriot Radio" channel. The show that happened to be on at the time was something called The Wilkow Majority (I'll give you a minute to shake your head at the right's ongoing and obligatory need to cast itself in the most muscular terms possible) hosted by a guy named Andrew Wilkow. What separates Wilkow from the rest of the crazy-come-latlies out there in conservative radioland is his belief that he's, well, a punk.

I'm not kidding.

Both Wilkow and his producer, an at one time faux-hawk-sporting kid named Nick Rizzuto, have gotten it through their heads that they're the personification of the right's new school -- and that the new school they represent also happens to be the logical next step in the evolution of punk. They've even started a website called "Conservative Punk." If this sounds fucking laughable, believe me -- it is. Do yourself a favor and don't think too hard about trying to fit the square peg of punk rock culture into the round hole of unabashed capitalism and conservatism; I tried for awhile and it only made my head hurt. Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins are turning over in their graves at this ridiculous conceit and they're not even dead yet. You almost have to give credit to the right's lack of shame when it comes to attempting to co-opt some of the better trends of the left while forcibly trading off its own misdeeds, clumsily trying to shove them under the banner of its enemy and hoping that no one notices how full of shit the whole notion is (Hitler was a leftist, racism is a liberal ideal, etc.).

Needless to say, neither Andrew Wilkow nor his remora, Nick Rizzuto, is a punk. To twist a somewhat legendary phrase: Boys, I grew up with punks. I was good friends with punks. I was a punk (and according to some, still am). You're no fucking punks.

The reality is that, after taking a quick glance at his website, Wilkow looks like he could be just about any other right-wing talking head. This is especially amusing when you consider the fact that he is actually quite a bit younger than the usual suspects and yet still looks like your basic perpetually middle-aged white guy who hasn't been blown since college. I guess that's what being Sean Hannity's hand-picked protege does to you. (Now's a good time to once again remind you that a guy who counts his introduction to Hannity among the greatest moments in his life also considers himself an up-the-establishment standard bearer of punk rock's new blood. You've gotta be fucking kidding me.)

All very easy shots at Wilkow and his show aside, though, I have to admit that while listening to him for a few minutes the other day, he made a surprisingly good point -- one that I sort of made here earlier in the week. I guess we're both on the same "Punk Rock Manifesto Weekly" mailing list.

The Wilkow rant in question had to do with the tendency of liberals to seemingly revel in martyrdom and self-sabotage -- their propensity to almost embrace their roles as losers and to be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of even the most assured victory. The crux of his argument was this: The Democrats have near-complete control of the government right now -- from the White House to the Hill. Legislation-wise, they can accomplish practically anything they set out to, and yet they're somehow content to bitch, moan and blame Republicans for standing in the way of progress when in reality no one's completely blocking their path. Worse than all of that, and this is something Wilkow didn't broach but I will: Liberals can't help fighting amongst themselves. It's as if it's ingrained in their DNA to never completely agree on anything. And we've all seen how well that strategy works when it comes to pushing through an agenda or, you know, winning elections.

A couple of days ago I published a piece decrying the Democrats for not being willing to take off the gloves and get their hands a little dirty when it comes to battling the Republican noise machine trying to thwart them at every turn. My point was that there won't be much solace in being able to say, "Well, at least we stuck to the ideals that make us better than the GOP automatons," four years from now if nothing got done and a Republican president is back in office. I'm not saying that there can't and won't be disagreement and dissent; I'm saying that in order to get the job done and give Barack Obama the clout he needs to move his agenda forward by leaps and bounds, there has to be, to a large extent, a united front to face the consistently united front staring you down from the other side of the aisle. To paraphrase The Godfather, as far as outsiders are concerned, you never take sides against the family.

Sure this is slightly robotic and seems to stand against everything left-wing America stands for, but guess what? It fucking wins.

Sometimes you've gotta look at the big picture -- and if there's anyone who can't seem to do that because they're too busy picking every little thing apart just to prove how intellectual, analytical and multi-faceted they are, it's liberals.

Case in point: today's New York Times editorial by Paul Krugman.

First of all, let me state unequivocally that Krugman's a genius; he's one of the smartest people around, and his views are always worth listening to. Let me also make it clear that I'm not suggesting that any side of the political spectrum let its leaders get away with anything and everything. The good of the nation should, for all intents and purposes, trump the good of the party. My argument is that the battle lines are so clearly drawn these days, the alternative for either party is so far removed from its own desired reality for the country, that each side has to be willing to accept that a big picture victory, even a partial one, is infinitely better than a complete loss. The Republicans realize this; the Democrats seem not to. Krugman's editorial, which takes President Obama to task for supposedly betraying the progressive base that helped put him in office, is a perfect example of the self-defeating splinter cell tendency of left-wing politics. Yes, Barack Obama seems to have slipped comfortably into a more middle-of-the-road stance than much of the left-leaning electorate would've liked, but make no mistake: a New York Times editorial from one of the leading liberal voices in America declaring that Obama has lost the support of progressives and now has to earn it back accomplishes nothing aside from doing the job of Republican strategists for them.

An editorial like Krugman's is every conservative's wet dream -- because those on the right know that any well-publicized dissension within the Democratic ranks makes Obama look weak and proves their point to those on the fence: that even when the Democrats have what they need to run the government their way, they can't make it happen. They can't seal the deal, despite having everything on their side.

As Wilkow said, they're born losers.

Right about now, the Democrats need to take a hint from a recent song by Green Day: Know Your Enemy. At the very least, know who he is.

Of course, Green Day actually have something in common with Andrew Wilkow: They're not real punks either.


ntx said...

There comes a point in many negotiations when you have to ask yourself if the other party is negotiating in good faith. If you conclude they're not, you must call bullshit on them and quit negotiating. Then you can walk away, or go ahead and do whatever the hell you want.

Democrats are at that point. It's abundantly clear that House Republicans have not been negotiating in good faith. The Dems have accepted 130 Republican amendments to the three House bills now being consolidated. How many Republicans have voted for any of those bills? None.

In the Senate, the gang of six -- allegedly three Democrats and three Republicans -- turn out to be the gang of five: three Democrats, two Republicans and Chuck Grassley, who is also a Republican but apparently is an unprincipled obstructionist asshole who has done just about everything possible to make sure no consensus can emerge on a compromise Senate bill.

It's time for Obama to call bullshit on Republicans, and do so publicly, in a primetime kind of way. Tell 'em, "You've been dicking around for three months with the sole purpose of seeing that no health reform legislation gets passed. You have until September 15 (Max Baucus's self-imposed new deadline) to produce a Senate compromise you can live with. The we're going to vote. You will lose and the American people will win. Your call, boys."

MJW said...

Precisely the point I made when I read this article:

God almighty, but the Dems do insist on being their own worst enemy.

corey said...

Thanks for writing these, Chez.
All I can think of when I hear about all this infighting/appeasement is that Spaceballs quote: "Evil will always triumph, because good is dumb."
I give Obama credit for attempting the bipartisan route, but it should have been abandoned long ago. Playing nice is a two-way street.

Nate said...

What ever happened to Rahm Emmanuel? I though he was supposed to be the president's tough guy enforcer. The reason the Democrats can't get their shit together is because they have no discipline. The majority leadership on the Hill is weak. Emmanuel needs to get out there with a big stick and bring the Democrats into line. I'm sorry, but I can't agree with you that this is no time for dissent in the Democratic ranks. I agree with that Taibbi op-ed you posted a few days ago: the Obama administration is working hard to make sure that they are a one-term presidency, and those of us that thought the president was actually going to try to fix some of our country's problems should be standing up and demanding that he take the lead on this.

Al said...

You mentioned something that never fails to piss me off a little every time I notice it...

Sirius Patriot - Conservative Talk
Sirius Left - Liberal Talk those on the progressive side of the political spectrum are "left"...but those on the "right" are patriots?


Jeremy said...

I'd be willing to agree with you... but I like Phish and so we have to in-fight over that non-issue because we're both liberal and have different tastes in music.

Anonymous said...

Reading this gave me satisifcation on a whole 'nother level: I dated a guy who would probably identify himself as a "conservative punk," bleeh.

This: This is especially amusing when you consider the fact that he is actually quite a bit younger than the usual suspects and yet still looks like your basic perpetually middle-aged white guy who hasn't been blown since college.

made me spit my minestrone soup out, I kid you not. You just described my ex.

Thanks, Chez.

Anonymous said...

You forget one important point Chez. A politician without an office, is a former politician. No one in DC, right or left, wants to be a former politician. Therefore, no one wants to get their hands dirty, right or wrong, for fear of getting kicked out of office.

Alonso Q. said...

These people need need to clam down.

How many elections do we need to go through before we collective realize that our President is neither God, nor the Devil.

Seriously, these people do what they think is best, so more deviosu than others. But in the end, they are just treading water; like the rest of us.

AppleDoc said...


I guess the question here is what we're going to "fucking win" if we stay quiet and support the Democratic party as a monolithic machine. Single-payer is out. The public option is out. Negotiating for better drug prices is out. Co-ops are likely out (and useless anyway). What's left?

We can't win anything unless the Democrats stand up for something the Republicans don't want. And at this point, it seems there are too many in the party like Baucus, Conrad, Leiberman, the Blue Dogs, all too eager to suck off the Big Healthcare teats. And then we get the exact same bill we would have gotten with a President McCain.

And to Nate, I think what we're seeing in all this mess of missed promises and "loss of Obama's trust with progressives" is Rahm Emanuel at work. Emanuel looks at winning as more money and power, not in results for the American people. If the Dems get more money from Big Healthcare, they win. If the Dems do things that stop criticism from the media and the right, they win. Remember, to Rahm it's the progressive that are "fucking stupid," not the birthers raving about gov't staying out of Medicare or the media giving them a voice.

Matt Osborne said...

I happen to like Green Day very much, but agree on their non-punkitude.

Helluva stage show, though...

Anonymous said...

The fracturing of support for Obama is something I've been beating my head against for awhile.
A decent analogy is a poker game. The progressive factions have descended into demanding that the president go all in on very specific pots - risk it ALL, right NOW, on DADT, or DOMA, or this or that single pot...with no regard for the fact that this game is going to be played over four (or hopefully eight) years, and the idea of buying a seat at the table is to win more pots than you lose, and when the game breaks up, to have more chips than anyone else.
When you're the big stack holding strong cards, you don't risk everything on every hand. Play that way, you go home broke. there are times to bluff, times to bully and times to fold. You play SMART, at the end of the night everyone ELSE goes home broke.

Progressive Change in America - Et tu, Brutus?

Ethnic Redneck said...

The biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals, deep down, feel really uncomfortable telling people what to do on an absolute basis. They are okay with telling people what not to do, but when it comes to telling people the "right way" (no pun intended) to do, they acknowledge there could be a hundred ways of going about it. Conservatives don't have this problem. According to them, if you want something, and can convince people to follow you, you are in the right (again, no pun). Even if it's utter and complete bullshit. Even if you convince them with lies. It's about getting things done, whether its something that should or could be done. Belief is king, while such questions like whether or not its criminal, immoral, rude, or just plain stupid, remain behind for all those liberal pussies to answer. Look at their heroes - no big thinkers, but lots of do'ers. To restate: Liberal hero - thinking man, who though cautious, creates situations to benefit the masses without creating a bigger mess. Conservative hero - a man of action (what, talking's an action, right Rush and Hannity?) who may leave nothing but rubble in his wake, but he gets things done.

micheal said...

apparently michael graves (ex misfits) and joe escalante (vandals) have something to do with this site

Izar Talon said...

OH, I would just LOVE this guy to meet Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins to meet this guy! Preferably in a dark alley somewhere. And have him tell them that he's a Conservative Punk. I know that Biafra is radical enough to manually extract a few teeth from him without anesthesia, and Rollins is just.. Henry Fucking Rollins. Throw in the whole crew from Crass (radical anarcho-punks) and make it a REAL party.

GOD. The entire CONCEPT of a "Conservative Punk" is so outrageously idiotic and oxymoronic that it makes my fucking hair hurt.

I consider myself a punk. I don't go around with green hair and have every appendage and orifice pierced, but the ideology and attitude is what I strive for. I am a Bad Religion Punk. (my favorite band) The Punk band who's lead singer has a Ph.D. from Cornell and is a professor at UCLA. THAT is my kind of Punk.

And I would absolutely LOVE to listen to a debate between Graffin and this fucking loser! An Ivy-League educated college professor front-man for a real Punk Rock band vs an idiot poseur Right-Wing blowhard.

And THEN Rollins, Biafra, and Crass can have what's left of him to play with.