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Strategery for the Post-Bush era

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.

Consider this post a sort of open question. (It’s not quite a LazyWeb post, exactly, because there’s not a single well-defined answer that I’m looking for.)

Electoral politics are weird, and anything could still happen. But the chances are very good at this point that, a little more than half a year from now, (1) the Bush administration will be gone, (2) the Democratic Party will hold even larger majorities in the House and the Senate, and (3) there may well be a Democratic President and administration, probably — although, again, you never know for sure — headed by Barack Obama. This after 6 years of trying to get by under a Republican-dominated government, and 2 years of divided government, which has largely maintained the status quo without much challenge or change.

The most important point to make is that even if there is a massive change-over in the balance of power in Washington, D.C., it won’t change much of anything fundamental. There will be shifts on the margins — some for good, some for ill, and most of them neutral shifts of patronage and privileges from one set of power-brokers to another set of power-brokers. Whatever may be the case, radicals will have to go on organizing and go on fighting uphill against the warfare State, paramilitary policing, plutocratic state capitalism, government managerialism, the forced-pregnancy brigade, the War on Drugs, the border Stasi, and all the rest of it.

But also, presumably, the changing of the guard in the State citadel will mean that some of the facts on the ground are going to change, as is some of the rhetoric and some of the constituencies of Power. Presumably that means that we are going to have to make some shifts in tactics and strategy for outreach, organizing, education, evasion, resistance, etc. in the coming months. The time to start talking about this, and to start laying the groundwork for what we will be doing in the coming years, is now, if not yesterday. We need to start thinking about where should we go, who should we talk to, and what should we do from here on out

So, with that in mind, what changes are there likely to be in the challenges we’ll face during the post-Bush era, and under a consolidated Democratic Party-dominated regime in D.C.? What changes in strategy, tactics, propaganda, and institutional infrastructure do you think that anti-statist liberation movements need to make, and what should they start doing now in order to be able to make those changes?

Let’s talk about it in the comments. (Or on your own blog, if you want the extra space; just leave a comment here with a link back to your post.)

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  1. Belinsky

    I’m a fan of change through art, and I think that’ll still be a good way to go about raising social consciousness once the Democrats have the White House. (If, I should say; let’s not get presumptive. Who knows what kind of Swiftboating and voter disenfranchisement will go on this November…) Of course, “go make art” is a rather simplistic way of looking at the tactics needed to solve such a complex set of problems. This is something I will have to consider at further length.

  2. John

    This is more of a musing that I and Anthony Gregory have had than a solution or a plan, but: If Obama or even Hillary becomes president, all those Bush-hating, anti-war, anti-neocon liberals, who protested the wars and the police-state measures of the Bush regime, will suddenly go back to loving and adoring the State and the president again. They will cheer any decreases in military spending but also cheer the corresponding increases in welfare payments and environmentalist programs. I think if libertarians can convince a fair number of liberals that the system screws us over even when the “good guys” are in charge, and keep driving home the message that the “good guys” aren’t even good, then some progress will be made for liberty in this country.

    ‘Course, we’ll have socialized medicine and crippling environmental restrictions by then, so that’ll be almost impossible to undo.

  3. david stewart

    I don’t believe that Sen Obama will win. I believe that Sen Clinton could win. But the scenario is Sen BO winning. The Dems in congress are all currently sucking on his jock to look as friendly as possible. After the election those same buttholes will do to Obama that they did to Bill Clinton. Ignore him and do whatever the fuck they want. A 21 year old college student is awed by an Obama speech. a 20 year member of congress will yawn. They’ll applaud and cheer during the election, and the day after won’t take your calls. The Dems controlled congress in 1992-1994 and their arrogance lost power to Newt and the wingnuts. Sen Obama may survive Karl Rove and the swift boaters, they are upfront and you know the agenda. The Dems in 2009 I woudn’t trust on public bus.

  4. Joel Davis

    Well first off, let’s just admit a given, Obama is polling ahead of McCain without even being “the democratic candidate.” Once Hillary is gone for good, the dems will lick their wounds and concentrate on McCain who looks to be the swiftboated this time around (and let’s not ignore that even with swiftboating, the president during something like 9/11 only just barely won.) So I think we can safely say we’re waiting on our first black president to be sworn in. (Of course anything to help that along might be for the better.)

    on the economic front, we have Austin Goolsbee, who I’m sure will occupy some sort of position in the administration, but I think Stiglitz will occupy a higher position because he has the creds to trump Goolsbee three or four times over and apparently supports Obama:

    2001 Nobel Prize winner for Economics, Joseph Stiglitz who worked under the Clinton Administration was asked who he thought would be better for the economy, President Clinton, President Obama, or President McCain. He responded, “I actually think that President Obama will do a better job on the economy. I think one of the problems is that the world changes. And you have to change your economic framework, your economic philosophy. And the Clinton administration…is too tied to a set of policies that were appropriate in 1992.”

    Now the interesting thing about Stiglitz is this: David Ellerman was one of his chief speech writers when Stiglitz worked at the World Bank. Ellerman is someone I am learning to have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for. He’s a tad bit to radical (he even partcipates or participated in a scholarly “radical social science” journal project that I’m having trouble locating again) so if he were tapped by Stiglitz it would have to be on the DL lest the republicans use him to paint Obama as a radical. How we can influence this, I’m not sure other than some “quietly public” campaign to gently suggest to Stiglitz that there is a strong public interest in having Ellerman or someone in that vein play a role in any position he may take in an Obama administration (with which stiglitz has almost come right out and said he would aide in one capacity or another. Maybe that’s an opening?

    Another thing to consider is attempting to somehow get even more mainstream Libertarians to self-identify as something distinctly different than conservative. You already see a bit of it with some Cato/Reason stuff. Like Cato being very anti-telco immunity, anti-NCLB, very often anti-Iraq war, and so on and with hit and run featuring all those articles on no knock raids and Drew Carey even tackling pot decriminalization. All those could be some of the planks Libertarians use for some sort of rapprochement with the mainstream left. We can also describe to the right-libertarians how conservatives pander to them but neither the “Republican Revolution” nor the Bush Adminsitration (when he had a Republican Congress) resulted in anything but larger and more comprehensive government powers, and that an alternative strategy for influencing public policy may be needed. How that helps us is by reviving a popular and moderate libertarian left we can combat the knee-jerk anti-liberty reaction a lot of leftists feel, but if you just sort of let them know how one can achieve leftist goals without infringing on liberty, then I think anarchism becomes an easier sell, sort of breaking the “pill” into smaller portions.

    The same sort of sentiment goes for supporting people like Larry Lessig who bring all sorts of good rhetoric to the leftism-as-liberty discussion.

    We can use (as John brought up) the Leftist president to illustrate the dilemma of using the state to achieve moral ends and the difficulty of even trying to do so.

    and as Belinsky brought up, propaganda can’t be overlooked. There is a movie coming out soon about the Stanford Prison Experiment coming out soon, and art-as-propaganda along those lines can be very useful in further illustrating the dilemma of using absolute authority to try to achieve a more moral situation. We can cite things like Watergate, tuskegee and the pentagon papers as evidence of “power corrupts the best of us” etc.

    There is also a lot of activity with SDS currently, that may be an interesting route to go. If we could manage to convince the 9/11 truthers at least abandon the idea of convincing people of the “inside job” for the moment, they could act as an organizing force to question corporate and state authority. The same goes for Ron Paul supporters, if we can get them to drop the nationalism. even if they don’t become anarchists, if they form a “libertarian middle” of sorts, our tasks will be easier to accomplish.

    And we can be absolutely certain that Monsanto will do something to illustrate corporate influence on state actors, so we just have to wait and “pounce” when they do.

    Overall, I think there’s a lot we can do, but we have to wait until we’re knee-deep in it before we can truly know what the best next step should be.

  5. Rad Geek

    Thank you, everyone, for a lot of thoughtful and helpful points so far.


    Yeah; I’m all for political art. (Not just because it’s useful as propaganda; also because it can be beautiful and heart-breaking, just on its own, aside from any use it may have.)

    What kinds of art do you think helps get through to the people we should want to reach? Will that change with a dramatic shift in the D.C. political scene, such as may be coming in early 2009? (E.g.: will it mean that we’ll have to adopt different messages in light of the different rhetoric, strategies, and constituencies of our enemies? For that matter, might the changes in D.C. make for changes in terms of which audiences we should be trying to reach in the first place?)


    Yeah; the fact that a lot of softy state Leftists will probably feel reconciled again with federal power and establishment corporate liberalism is something that may require some rethinking. Particularly with big official Left groups like MoveOn, UFPJ, et al. I certainly am not looking forward to another 4-8 years of establishment Progressives running interference for Obamarchy the way they did for Clintonism during the 1990s. (Or, worse even than Clinton, since the male professional-class netroots types in particular feel really strongly connected, personally and politically, with Obama’s rise to power.)

    So, here’s part of what I’d be interested to hash out with y’all. A certain percentage of the people that we have been able to get along with more or less passably for the past several years are going to be gone, or worse than gone; depending on the breaks this may hobble or completely immobilize some significant large organizations that, until now, have been largely on our side. Are there any good leads or approaches y’all can think of to try to keep some Lefties in the more radical, and more anti-statist place that they’ve occupied heretofore? Are there any promising cracks or divisions within the Democratic Party ranks that we might be able to exploit to help break up the lockstep a bit? (Or might we just be SOL for the next several years as far as lefty Dems and conventional Progressives go? That’s certainly a possibility to consider, although I’d rather not write that direction for outreach off entirely unless I have pretty strong reasons for doing so.)

    Do we need to start thinking about shoving existing organizations to make sure they stay principled under a Democratic regime? Or shifting towards building alternatives to organizations that may not be salvageable? (If so, what can we look at doing between now and January to make ourselves ready?)


    Another thing to consider is attempting to somehow get even more mainstream Libertarians to self-identify as something distinctly different than conservative. You already see a bit of it with some Cato/Reason stuff.

    I agree that this is very important. But there are some big challenges that I can see on the horizon. For one thing, it looks a lot like the Libertarian Party, which has never (to say the least) been perfect, but is one of the primary public faces of libertarianism, especially for people who don’t hang out with weirdoes like me, is in the crosshairs for a takeover and rebranding by small-government conservative exiles from the fracturing Republican Party. Libertarian Party internal politics are weird and often chaotic, so it’s hard to know anything about how this will or won’t pan out, but unfortunately a lot of the Party leadership seems to be on-board with this idea (partly because they’re opportunistic creeps who are salivating over hooking an ex-Congressman like Bob Barr and a direct mail pusherman like Viguerie; probably also partly because they expect that if they swing towards conservatives they can create a niche for themselves similar to the one they occupied in the anti-Clinton scene during the 1990s). In any case, if Barr and Viguerie succeed in getting their way, the LP, and any libertarian media and outfits that travel in its wake, are likely to make a hard right turn towards 1994-style conservatism.

    I don’t really care what Cato does at this point, but I’d be more interested to see whether Reason follows a similar trajectory, or continues on the more leftward direction that it’s been taking over the past few years. The good news is that even if the LP pitches increasingly conservative, Reason is fairly independent of it, and there’s some decent presence from fairly firmly convinced left-libertarians within the outfit already.

    I definitely agree with you that SDS is potentially a very, very important outfit to look at. Actually I’d say much the same for a lot of the radical left, which is likely to remain fairly alienated from power under a corporate liberal Democrat regime. Of course, I’ve always thought that we should be looking to cooperation, alliance, and mutual learning from/with the radical left (I mean real radicals, not Obamarchist Progressive blogger revolutionaries); but part of the question now is whether our strategy of outreach will have to change. (Since, among other things, we’ll probably have to start rethinking outreach a bit in order to emphasize the New Left critique of corporate liberalism, and other wedges that we might use to open some doors. Which is perhaps a different proposition from the kind of fairly broad anti-Bush, anti-Republican appeals that we’ve been able to use to open doors so far.)

    Anyway, it’s late and I’ve already thrown out way more than enough questions for folks to chew on some more, so I’ll pull up and leave space for more dialogue. What do y’all think?

· December 2008 ·

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