Will our tribe ever learn how to talk?

MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2022

Kevin Drum cites Dahlia Lithwick: On balance, we tend to agree with Kevin Drum's recent posts, though we also spot a bit of irony in the nature of the agreement.

On what subject do we tend to agree? Let's take this in two awful steps:

In his most recent post, Drum cites an ongoing switch in party registrations, as reported by the Associated Press. To give you a glimpse of "The horror! The horror!", the AP's headline says this:

More than 1 million voters switch to GOP in warning for Dems 

It isn't that everyone who's switching their party registration is switching from D to R. Roughly 630,000 voters have also switched from R to D in the past year, the period under review.

Still, the AP scores this as a warning sign for Democrats. So why in the world would some Democrats be switching their registration?

If you can't think of a million possible reasons, you may not have cable TV! Setting such sour thoughts to the side, let's consider an earlier post by Drum, a post from yesterday.

Headline included, this was Drum's complete post:

 Liberals really suck at defending abortion

Just to add to my previous notes, I've read a whole lot of pieces this weekend about how terrible Sam Alito's opinion in Dobbs is; about the misogyny of conservatives; about their ignorance of history; about the Court's lack of democratic legitimacy; about all the other rights that are certain to fall now that Roe is toast; and about bodily autonomy and how it is so in the Constitution.

I'll have more to say about this tomorrow, but what's striking to me is how bad all these columns and essays and think pieces have been. I'm not sure I've read a single one that I'd call lucid or persuasive—and that's despite the fact that my personal view of abortion is about as extreme as it's possible to have.¹

We liberals really need to get our act together. How is it that after 50 years we're apparently still not able to defend abortion in any kind of simple, convincing way that appeals to anyone who's not already on our side?

In footnote 1, Drum describes his personal view on abortion and abortion rights, a view which would almost surely be impossible to sell on the political open market. (That doesn't mean that it's wrong.) 

That said, we're struck by the claim he makes about the columns he's read about Alito and Dobbs. His statement is worth repeating:

"What's striking to me is how bad all these columns and essays and think pieces have been."

We can't say we're shocked by that, though we're probably coming at this from a slightly different angle. We've been amazed, but not amazed, by how clueless the cable commentary has been—how clueless, how reliably disingenuous, how thoroughly built to fail.

Our corporate-selected tribal "thought leaders" are deeply unimpressive. Endless self-flattery to the side, they just aren't especially sharp. 

We talk to ourselves and to no one else. Our tribe is virtually defined by our high self-regard, but there simply isn't a whole lot there to justify this attitude.

We expect to discuss these points as the week unfolds. For now, we'll only note the irony in Drum's complaints about the lack of clarity in much of the work he's read. Can this be the same Kevin Drum who recently said that, in the end, it isn't really all that hard to explain what Kurt Godel said?

In part, our politics of the past many years has been defined by "the absence of the logicians." As our public discourse crashes around us, they tangle themselves in "the set of all sets not members of themselves," or in the silly imagined complexities of The Liar's Paradox.

Frege and Godel are our greatest logicians, and no one can explain what they said. In fact, no one has ever heard their names! Our greatest logicians have walked off their posts and left us with Donald J. Trump, and with a stumblebum group of corporate-picked pundits to guide us along our path.

In one respect, the failures of our highest academic elites are part of a (beautiful) human comedy. We plan to return to this topic in the next few days, writing with that 12-year-old kid in mind.

Meanwhile, our liberal "thought leaders" in the upper-end press have served us amazingly poorly over the past thirty years. People are dead all over the world because of the mayhem these nitwits have caused, and many more people are going to die as they pretend to perform their key service.

In this other recent post, Drum discussed recent remarks by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick.  It's his promised follow-up to yesterday's post. Quite correctly in our view, he complains about our floundering tribe's frequent lack of clarity.

You can judge his assessment as you will, but more than anything else on earth, our tribe probably needs to stop trusting academic / journalistic authority. 

The people in question aren't real sharp. Neither is anyone else!


  1. "Our corporate-selected tribal "thought leaders" are deeply unimpressive."

    Meh. Respectfully, we would have to disagree, dear Bob.

    All that hatred, hysteria, lies, demagoguery produced by your tribe's liberal shamans -- it's so massive, so ubiquitous, so intense, that it is deeply, deeply impressive.

    Oh yes. Fun to watch.

  2. "Still, the AP scores this as a warning sign for Democrats. So why in the world would some Democrats be switching their registration?"

    If you read the comments to Drum's blog, several of those interviewed as switching actually switched back in 2016 in order to vote for Trump. There are some other problems with the reported study, which you won't hear about from Somerby.

  3. Given that Somerby will not accept any of the simplified explanations of important thinkers on technical topics, how can we be sure there is any argument whatsoever that Somerby would find convincing on any topic? Personally, I don't believe there is any argument he would like.

    Somerby again seems to think there are any undecided people on the topic of abortion, who might change their minds with the right argument. I doubt that is true. This subject has been a point of dissension for half a century and I think people pretty much know where they stand -- until they or a loved one needs an abortion. Then all bets are off and a different set of criteria are applied.

    So, this is just another exercise in beating up liberals. For me, the most compelling argument is that this is a deeply personal matter of individual values affecting a person's health, so I think they should be permitted to make that decision together with their physician and whoever else they would turn to for advice -- and their decision should not be dictated by the state (or any level of government).

    Somerby is typically coy about his own beliefs. Simply rejecting any and all arguments without proposing what he thinks would be compelling, makes Somerby a non-combatant in this discussion. He appears to be a conscientious objector. It is easy to sit on that fence if you are male.

  4. "In one respect, the failures of our highest academic elites are part of a (beautiful) human comedy."

    Somerby cannot claim that "our highest academic elites" are failures, if he cannot identify what is wrong with their explanations -- and he never says. He only says that he doesn't understand (while others claim to get it). You can't make that horse drink, if he is determined not to. Somerby's thesis is ridiculous and I won't participate in his game when it concerns something as important as women's abortion rights. This is real life in a way that Godel's theorem is not, and Somerby has no right to insist that no arguments can decide the issue, since he is too stupid to follow what anyone says. No one has given Somerby the right to demean the smart people who have put their own arguments on the line, when he won't express his own opinions on any topic.

    He is being an asshole again today.

  5. Liberal thought leaders have not committed mayhem. Donald Trump was helped into office by Russia and Comey, assholes like Somerby refused to support Hillary, even to keep Trump out of office, so Trump has given Christian nationalists control over aspects of government that they could never have won at the polls. The 6 Catholics on the Supreme Court (3 nominated by Trump) do not represent a majority of voters, who are in favor of abortion by large majorities nationwide. Somerby can pretend that it is academicians who put Trump into office, but it took foreign interference to do that. Hillary won the overwhelming popular vote, but lost 70,000 votes in 3 key blue states (because Bernie bros stayed home or voted for Jill Stein, a disinformation campaign on Facebook depressed black vote, and Comey released an October surprise letter) and thereby lost the electoral college.

    Instead of correctly noting that we should not have an electoral college any more -- it is a vestige of conflict between slave and free states when the constituton was written, Somerby acts as though liberals didn't explain things well enough to voters (who, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary).

    Somerby stopped making sense a long time ago. Today he shills for the right wing, pushing conservative talking points while pretending to be liberal. He has nothing to say about abortion rights, not least because he doesn't like women much, and his arguments here are mainly to convince his readers that liberals are shit. As a liberal voter, I object to that characterization and I don't anyone else here agrees with it, except the conservative trolls and fanboys Somerby attracts.

    When it comes to an important issue that liberals care strongly about, such as abortion, Somerby's antics here are offensive. No one with both a mind and a heart will find what Somerby says convincing.

  6. Anti abortion policy represents the same divide and conquer attitudes as workplace or housing discrimination, but they are packaged as a moral crusade against liberals, who indeed have left people without national healthcare as America keeps profit and debt on the private side of the ledger. Things are really slipping under people's feet and this tactic gets them upset but without addressing the real system of splinter factions, the federalist society. Women should be half the people you meet at most jobs and this puts all those interactions on hold, all of your organizing in theory can stop. And now women have to raise gas money to see a doctor in another state. This is actually an anti democratic attack, on the value of women's participation in society the same way a war destroys womens support systems or even roads to meet a friend who can help. Now they can be hunted by Clarence Thomas vigilantes.

    1. Nothing is stopping participation in society. Almost all people seeking abortion become pregnant through their own choices and not rape. Men are spared the obligation of providing for the initial nine months because biology discriminates but that's a reality of human existence. Killing or not paying child support are not "choices" one can make legitimately after making other bad decisions that caused the circumstances the mother and father created.

  7. I agree that the left is weak at supporting abortion, but they're utterly feeble at supporting Roe. The problem is that most of the left supports Choice as policy and have little interest in its Constitutional basis. .

    The challenge now is to sell Choice to conservative states. That's something the left hasn't been working at so much. As a long-time donor to Planned Parenthood and other more-explicitly pro-choice organizations, i will follow their actions with great interest.

    1. If you are going to sell it to states, doing so on the basis of policy and not constitution makes sense, so how is it a bad thing that liberals have been doing that?

      Conservative states are a lost cause. The challenge now is to enact national legislation or change the constitution to protect privacy rights. Dmocrats will do that, not Planned Parenthood, which is a lobbying org.

    2. I wish it could be done, @7:04. However, the Senate Republicans would use the filibuster to prevent Federal abortion law. And, it might not be Constitutional, either. Getting a Constitutional amendment is even harder. It requires something like 3/4 of the states. That isn't gonna happen.

      If we can't get conservative states to permit abortions, then maybe we can set up some organizations to help women in these states travel to other states to get abortions there. My wife and I would donate to such an organization.

    3. Some Conservative states are adopting extreme abortion bans, including banning morning-after pills. I would love to see Congress pass a moderate abortion law. E.g., the Mississippi law allowing abortion up to 15 weeks. Maybe the Republicans would go along with that.

    4. David, Planned Parenthood is doing that, so you can donate to them.

      At some point Dems are going to have to get rid of the filibuster.

  8. "How is it that after 50 years we're apparently still not able to defend abortion in any kind of simple, convincing way that appeals to anyone who's not already on our side?"

    Because your task is to defend one group of humans' right to legally kill another group of humans en masse who haven't even reached their first birthday, for reasons of convenience.

    The "side" defending it can never appeal to the population of intellectually and morally developed citizens.

    1. The bacteria that causes plague is alive too. Is it a sin to kill it with antibiotics?

      We killed German soldiers in WWII without most people considering it morally wrong, because lives were at stake. When a woman’s life is at stake, is she supposed to do nothing to save it because the threat is aclump of human cells in an ectopic pregnancy?

      I don’t think you’ve thought this through. Like Somerby, you seem to demand simplistic answers to complex questions.

    2. The resentment of doctors performing abortion is based on pseudoscience. Whatever a person may do to earn the title of a living person, it is not animated by its own intentions at the stages it's aborted. The kicks and so called heartbeat videos are inventive, feel good December hot cocoa sentimentality, pseudoscience. Law should be based on science.

      When you try to form a union in a job often the so called team leader will bring you in and you'll watch a video about how there's these people trying to upset you and make you think you are unhappy with your job and pay. They did something similar to the Republican lawmakers with heartbeat videos.

    3. "The "side" defending it can never appeal to the population of intellectually and morally developed citizens."
      If this were true, we'd have open borders.

    4. Show me a the population of intellectually and morally developed citizens, and I'll show you people who won't pay a little more in taxes to provide better prenatal care to all pregnant women.

    5. Hmm. If you're so intellectually and morally developed, why wouldn't you take, say, 0.5% from your war budget -- to provide better prenatal care to all pregnant women?

      But no, of course you want your trillion dollar war budget and a little more of our money.

    6. Mao,
      Let us know if your Establishment bosses get back to you on that.
      Thanks in advance.

    7. OG commenter here. I am in favor of care for pregnant women, marriage and family incentivizing public policy, and liberal immigration. Thanks for asking.

    8. "Whatever a person may do to earn the title of a living person, it is not animated by its own intentions at the stages it's aborted"

      Those who aren't animated by their own intentions for a period of time are not fair game to kill. This would allow a decision to kill anyone who is asleep or a newborn infant. Absence of a prior life lived or being valued by others are also not conditions disqualifying someone of their right not to be put to death. In general we rightly value and protect the young more than we do adults because of their potential, helplessness, and innocence. A status of not yet born does not affect someone's equal human worth.

    9. 10:53,
      If every sperm was sacred, masturbating men would be serial killers.
      Alito could make the Founding Fathers out to believe that if he wanted to.

    10. 10;09,
      Nothing wrong with virtue signaling as a non-Republican. In fact, it’s encouraged.

  9. Next the conservatives are coming for Brown v Board of Ed. That should make Somerby happy.

  10. The emphasis of a viable life is a missing perspective of the law. So when a person has a miscarriage or abortion either naturally or medically induced, that's also part of life selecting itself, biologically. And women don't want to bring a pregnancy to term just to watch it suffer as much as this world can offer. That's what we must offer them a way to avoid, and by blocking it we instead make a hard choice for them unbearably harder and more dangerous. A person doesn't deserve to see themselves forced to have a family that the world tortures. Everything we do now in response is either healthcare and security of the population or victim blaming and tyranny of reactionary reproductive healthcare policy.

    1. You don't get to kill someone to spare yourself from any consequences they might face from your bad choices. Their lives should be protected. Poor people don't deserve death "for their own good."

    2. 10:11,
      Since you’ve changed the subject, allow me to add that Universal Healthcare is a great idea as well.

    3. A woman who terminates a pregnancy because of a birth defect in the child has not made "bad choices." A woman who was raped or became pregnant via incest did not make "bad choices" either. A woman whose birth control failed did not make any "bad choices". A woman whose husband forces her to have unprotected sex did not make "bad choices". A woman who was slipped a roofie on a date didn't make "bad choices". A teen who believed a myth about what can and can't get you pregnant did not make "bad choices". A woman who thought she was in menopause because her periods stopped and then found herself pregnant did not make "bad choices" either. A woman who voluntarily got pregnant and then her husband lost his job and hasn't gotten another, leaving her the sole support of the family (including other kids), or perhaps there is no support at all but no income so hospital bills cannot be paid, did not make "bad choices". A woman who got pregnant in order to start a family, because she was in love, then caught her husband with another woman or embezzling company funds, or simply put in jail for a bar fight, and cannot support herself and a child too, may have chosen the wrong husband, but it is hard to know that in advance, so did she really make "bad choices" or did her husband do that?

    4. Choosing to have sex at a risk of pregnancy when your game plan is to kill a human if the pregnancy occurs is most definitely a bad choice.

  11. I haven't heard any defender of abortion rights mention the words "birth control".

    1. Democrats have supported both sex education and birth control forever.