Morning Open Thread

I crashed hard last night, falling asleep at around 9:30. That is very strange for me, since I almost never go to sleep before 2 a.m. On the plus side, I woke up at about 4:45, and I have been able to be quite productive this morning. Working in the morning has been so nice, that I am considering changing my sleep schedule altogether.

This is a morning open thread. In the extended entry, I finally have the results of the second part of the MyDD reader survey. Hopefully, I will post the next part of the survey later today or tomorrow.

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Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the Right

Tonight, following Amanda Melissa's resignations, I am reminded of the how violence has long been a tool of the right-wing in its attempts to end reproductive choice in America. Consider the following:
In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed 7 people, including 3 doctors, 2 clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.(...)

According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidences of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.(...)

The first letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting, and since then, there have been a total of 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers.(...)

According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidences of trespassing, 1264 incidences of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid.
Violence against abortion providers is by far a more serious threat to reproductive freedom than any democratic, legislative, or judicial means. On the democratic front, despite South Dakota being the 11th most "pro-life" state in the nation, according to Survey USA, a ballot measure to outlaw abortion was soundly defeated, 55%-45% last November. On the legislative front, despite Republicans holding a trifecta in Washington D.C. for four years from 2003-2006, and despite Republicans holding a trifecta in over 25 states for at least two years during the last decade, not only does abortion remain legal in every single state in the nation, it was never successfully outlawed anywhere (although Demcoratic-controlled Louisiana is pending on that front). When it comes to the judiciary, despite more than two-thirds of current federal and Supreme Court justices being appointed by Republicans, Roe vs. Wade has yet to be overturned, or even seriously challenged since Casey versus Planned Parenthood (another Democratic move).

Over the past fifteen years, conservatives have had every possible democratic, legislative, and judicial tool at their disposal to outlaw abortion, at least somewhere. However, all of their attempts on these fronts have failed miserably. The only thing hat has worked for them has been violence committed against abortion providers. When I write "violence," I am being as nice as humanly possible. Take another look at the list of acts I quoted above, described, and tell me that it doesn't smack of a coordinated, terrorist campaign against abortion providers. Sadly, it has largely been successful. The reason there are only one, two or three abortion providers in two dozen states is because of the terrorist campaign conducted against abortion providers. As all democratic means have failed them, the only tool conservatives have successfully used to slow down abortion has been a campaign of terrorist violence against abortion providers.

But that isn't the only area where terrorism and the threat of violence remains a key political tool for American conservatives. As much as we laud the sophistication, coordination, and long-term funding that was required to build the Republican Noise Machine, the incidents of the past week bring into stark relief how the continuing threat of violence against targets of the Noise Machine play a key role in its operation. Keep in mind that the targets of right-wing smears are often junior staffers, college professors or other mid-range employees that ultimately mean little to the organization where they are employed. By targeting such people, the Noise Machine hopes to enact more pain to the organizations who employ those-who-dare-to-ever-step-out-of-line- with-conservative-orthodoxy than those-who-dare-to-ever-step-out-of-line- with-conservative-orthodoxy can ever bring to the organization in question. However, in the rare cases where that is not enough to achieve victory, such as John Edwards refusing to fire Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan last week, other tactics are employed in order to achieve the desired result. In order for the Noise Machine to get its scalps and thus continue its normal operation, simultaneous to all of the media smears there is a constant campaign of violent threats. In the case of Marcotte and McEwan, when the organization employing the targets refused to cave from media pressure, the targets themselves caved largely as a result of the constant string of violent threats leveled against them by right-wing activists. As Melissa wrote in her public resignation letter:
There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation.
Much like the democratic means attempted by conservatives to outlaw abortion, the media pressure against Edwards didn't work. Unfortunately, the violent threats against Melissa did. Over at Pandagon, Amanda offers a taste of some of the tamer threats she received during the episode, and which it appears she continues to receive. Ultimately, it appears that it was the continuing threat of violence, not any media pressure or caving from the Edwards campaign, that allowed the right-wing to "take scalps" in this whole affair.

During the brief media frenzy surrounding my googlebomb campaign in October of 2006, I myself received about five dozen death threats that looked not unlike the ones Amanda posted at Pandagon. Also, when Michelle Malkin tried to attack two college students for engaging in anti-war protests, the college students also received dozens of death threats. Considering of this, it now seems pretty clear to me now that every right-wing media campaign against a mid-level Democrat or progressive is always accompanied with numerous threats of violence. It seems to be a ubiquitous back-up tactic of the American right-wing in the event that their media pressure fails to work, just as it failed to work against the Edwards campaign, and just as it failed to work against me when it came to the Googlebombs. As it the case with abortion providers, if you can't beat them using democratic means, and if you can't defeat them using your vast media empire, use death threats as a final tactic to force relatively powerless individuals to bend to your demands.

Terrorism and the threat of violence against American citizens remains a key political tool for the American right-wing. This is true both in the sense of conservatives and Republicans trying to scare people into voting for them / justifying their legislative agenda, and in the sense of actual terrorism and threats of violence against Democrats and progressives who stand in their way. The most important lesson we should learn from the entire "Edwards bloggers" incident is not that Edwards caved (he didn't), not that Amanda and Melissa let us down (they didn't), not that the media is dominated by a Republican Noise Machine that justifies any right-wing smear (it is, but what else is new under the sun?), but that physical violence and the threat of physical violence is still successfully being employed as a political tactic against individual progressives in America. Make no mistake: without threatening violence, Donohue, O'Reilly, Malkin, and everyone else associated with this smear campaign would have lost, and badly, just as we thought they had lost badly at the end of last week. In the end, their campaign was saved via death threats. You won't read about that in any of the AP stories, but it is something we need to address front and center--even if just on our own at first--none the less.

MyDD Survey Data, Part Two: Partisanship, Voting and General Ideology

Click here to take survey

It is time for part two of the MyDD reader survey. This section focuses on partisanship, voting, and general ideology.

Click here to take survey. I'll post the results tomorrow morning.

I will produce part three of the survey, which will focus on lifestyle questions, on Wednesday. Also, you can see the complete results of part one, the demographic survey, in the extended entry. You should seriously check it out--it is interesting stuff, and quite relevant to our conversations today.

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Electorate Hungry For Vague Aphorisms

While it is two weeks old, some recent polling information from Pew shines some light on the nonsense that is the public's supposed desire for bipartisanship and compromise in Washington. As the table on the right shows, between 46% and 67% of the electorate wants politicians who both "are willing to compromise" and "are willing to stick with positions, even if unpopular." Huge percentages of the country also want to see compromise in general, but don't want to see compromise on specific issues. The next time the public doesn't like someone because s/he or is a "flip flopper," perhaps they should look themselves in the mirror. More importantly, the next time a pundit or reporter states that the country is looking for compromise and bipartisanship, they should note that the country doesn't know what exactly it wants compromise on, and that they also like leaders who stand on principle.

Apart from the numbers that show, to put it politely, a confused electorate hungry for vague aphorisms, it is also interesting to note that Democrats have pulled clearly ahead of Republicans in terms of popularity, and liberals have pulled nearly even to conservatives. With leaners included, the polls internals show self-identified Democrats leading self-identified Republicans by a whopping 52-36 margin. It also shows that candidates who are "nearly always conservative" are liked by 38% of the electorate, while candidates who are "nearly always liberal" are liked by 32% of the electorate. With numbers like those, I can't wait to see the compiled numbers from 2006 on self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives. The already narrowing gap is probably at its lowest ebb since the 1960's, or even earlier. If self-identified liberals ever equal self-identified conservatives, the Republican Party will either be forced to throw off the stranglehold of the conservative movement, or face a long-term debilitating electoral deficit for a generation. Who knows, the country might go so far to the left that even Barack Obama would be willing to self-identify as a liberal or a progressive.

Update: Yes, this was a snotty post on several levels. I'm tired, damn it. That attitude will come out once and a while. However, that last jab at Obama should not be misconstrued as a feeling of contempt for him. Of course I love what he did today in the Senate. Also, I volunteered for the guy in a crowded Democratic field in the 2004 Illinois Senate primary--I wouldn't have done that if I didn't like him. I just feel frustrated that someone who seems to obviously be a progressive refuses to self-identify as one.

Actually, it occurs to me that I have supported, beyond merely voting and sentiment, all three "top tier" candidates in the past. I volunteered for Kerry-Edwards in the 2004 general election, for Obama in the 2004 primary, and for Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) on several occasions. Weird. I guess if you are involved in politics long enough, eventually this sort of thing is bound to happen.

How To Win An Argument With Another Progressive

Are you too busy to respond to every comment on your blog? Do you have a difficult time coming up with quick retorts during debates in local activist meetings? Is your pet position being ignored by your progressive friends and colleagues? Are there still progressives who have the gall to not follow every last bit of your advice on politics? If you face these or any similar problems, then you need my guide on how to win an argument with a fellow progressive. It is quick. It is easy. Also, if my experience in receiving literally dozens of criticisms of my own writing on a daily basis is any indicator, it would appear that literally anyone can follow this guide and still feel absolutely self-righteous.

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