When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

January 19, 2005


Bravo Romeo Delta

One of the sheer beauties of the bloggosphere is that all ideas simmer once posted. Kind of like brainstorming that leaves latent impressions. I put together three past posts in the past, and it seems that Michael Totten's most recent post is the Grand Slam that sent all the runners home. So, a introduction to the posts is in order, and then some attempt at explaining how it is that Mr. Totten tied these things together so very effectively.

Chronologically speaking, this post is the first one, and takes a look at the forces that have been shaping the Democratic Party since 1968 and yields this quote:

The third development is the birth of the modern protest movement. While public protest has had a long and fruitful history in the United States, the Vietnam War era protests have a different tone and culture. The protests of the late 60’s and early 70’s have been mythologized and given a place of primacy among activists. Unfortunately, quite often protests don’t actually convert the unconverted any more than a campaign rally woos supporters of other candidates. They are, by and large, means to assemble choirs to be preached to. This leads to something called “Incestuous Amplification” in military circles, defined by Jane’s Defense Weekly as “a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation.” Furthermore, this dichotomy has the effect of (at least in the short run) heightening the divide between the true believer and the rest of the populace – or the divide between the political fanatic and the more cynical centrist.

What makes modern protest even more problematic is that protests over the last few years have all but lost any sense of ideological consensus – or even coherency. One would not be terribly surprised to see a “Free Mumia” placard at an anti-WTO protest although the two subjects have absolutely no relation to each other. Today’s protests have made their tent so large that the only thing they have in common with each other (other than an innate dislike for the current President) is their fondness for chants, slogans and indignation. This embrace of dissonance means that it makes all the sense in the world to associate a whole raft of extremist causes. This has had the effect of creating some very odd cross-branding mechanisms. It’s been seen at any one of a number of mass rallies – protesters arguing about trade policy, environmental problems, human-rights, war, oil, unions without a single cohesive understanding of why they are out there, what they hope to achieve and where they think their going with all the chants, banners, street-performers and “Bush=Hitler” signs.

My second post touches on the notion that liberal and conservative are, essentially, worthless ways of identifying party affiliation in the American system.  Both parties contain strains of liberalism as well as conservatism.  Finally, the post posits that, currently, the Republican Party has become more liberal than the Democratic Party, and as such, is a driving force behind the impending sea change on the left.

The third bit draws comparisons between protests and political conventions, and the ways that they provide almost identical roles in the hearts and minds of the faithful.
Now that you've become all wise and whatnot from these ramblings, and have read Mike's piece, you'll start to see how the notion of activistism is really the lynchpin that ties it all together.

The activistist folk, following Vietnam, were embraced by the left - this was made most evident by McGovern's nomination in 1972 - since then they have been the hand holding the whip in the Democratic Party.  Since then, activistism has gained in influence (particularly with the increasing age of the heart of activistism - the boomers) in the Democratic Party, such that much of the Democratic Party ideology is now driven by an interest in anger, protest, and complaint for its own sake.  As a result, the Democratic Party has become a host organism for the malevolent influence of the true believers who now 'don't march because they believe in the cause, but believe in the cause because they march.'

Consequently, this explains why much of the intellectual vibrancy of the Democratic Party has fallen on hard times - positions can only be taken, in so far as they are the dry reflection of the activistist mentality.  Ideas about actually fixing problems and creating solutions can, by their very nature, be something to be despised.  This is the reason that there are so few functional think tanks that are considered distinctly left-leaning.  It is not because of funding or any other such nonsense (ask Soros about that), but rather that what was once the American left has simply become an echo chamber dominated by those who would go deaf by screaming themselves hoarse.

On some level, I believe moderates and some Republicans to be more concrete in pragmatic in their demands of their world.  For example, poverty might be a bad thing - but, by definition, it is also an inexcusable thing - just ask how the poorest student at Sidwell Friends feels about her status, compared to Chelsea Clinton's.  As such, moderates and some Republicans will attempt to do something reasonably effective about mitigating it.  But since real world solutions are always open to further improvement and can thus be found wanting, real world solutions are manifestly not the stock in trade of the activistist.
Moreover, this is the reason that the many on the left will assume that a person is a "Republican" because of their stance on one or two specific issues - they have deviated from the perfect moral purity of unadulterated complaint that is the hallmark of the activistist.  I very seldom find Republicans who will spit the term "Democrat" at someone as a vile epithet simply and solely because they might be, let's say, pro-choice or otherwise at variance from the party line.  Now, to be fair, I have heard the term "liberal" used in such a fashion once in a blue moon, but very seldom is liberal used as shorthand for evil with the same relish that activistists use "Republican".  But getting back to the core point, a non-activistist can understand that not all intelligent, well-meaning people will see eye-to-eye on every issue.  Those of the activistist stripe, however, see any variance from the ideal of elevating protest tactics for the sake of tactical protest, and strictly upholding the party dogma as being a fundamental rejection of the activistist viewpoint - which it is.  Since the activistists have, effectively, overrun the Democratic Party, however, the party will continue to evaporate leaving behind a bitter residue of hatred, antipathy, and a violently negative reaction to all the foibles and imperfection that is human.

I wish, I do wish, that the Democratic Party would expel this particular kidney stone - I prefer living in a two party system.  Not a system of one party and one rabble of the outraged.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

UPDATE the First:  As two of the commenters to the posting of this entry at Demosophia have noted, McGovern ran in 1972, Humphrey was the 1968 candidate.  I stand, gratefully, corrected.  Changes have been made as appropriate.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at January 19, 2005 10:41 PM
» Michael J. Totten Retaliates with: “We Can’t Get Bogged Down in Analysis”
» Demosophia Retaliates with: Walk-Ins
» Anticipatory Retaliation Retaliates with: Walk-Ins
» The Jawa Report Retaliates with: Walk-Ins

Retaliatiory Launches

There was a time when I thought the Liberterians might become one of the 2 main parties after the Democrats went the way of the Federalists and the Whigs. I'm not so certain of that now. ^_^;

Posted by: The Snark Who Was Really a Boojum at January 20, 2005 02:21 AM

"Not a system of one party and one rabble of the outraged."

Let he who is without sin...

You let me know when you've got the "Religious Right" out of your half, and I'll work on getting the "Indignant Mob" out of mine.

Posted by: CVE at January 20, 2005 11:33 PM


We did that after the '96 debacle, and ditched the Pat Buchanan paleo-cons in the bargin. The Theo-cons still hang around as they truly have nowhere else to go. They're fairly well isolated from power for the moment. (Though that athiest jackass on the west coast seems bound & determined to stir them up with his lawsuits... And I say this as a long time athiest myself.) Pat's know-nothing isolationism seems to have come to a Molotov-Ribbentrop sort of agreement with the fringe left.

Posted by: Cybrludite at January 23, 2005 11:50 AM

I've been complaining for years (to myself, mostly) about how the phrase "question authority" has become code for "blindly reject ALL authority! (except ours, of course)".

Nice to be able to put a name to that sort of stupidity. "Activistist" is now part of my lexicon.

Posted by: Bryan at January 26, 2005 12:41 AM

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