Foreign Policy

Where McGovern Bashing Gets Us

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Writing in The American Conservative, occasional Reason magazine contributor Daniel McCarthy argues:

If Republicans and liberal hawks were correct in calling Obama a new McGovern, they only succeeded in proving how repellent most Americans, including many conservatives, find today's GOP. The trouble is, instead of the country getting George McGovern—a temperamental conservative, an anti-militarist, and a committed decentralist—we're getting Barack Obama, who dreams of another New Deal and picked Hillary Clinton as his chief diplomat. Somehow the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists prevailed again.

Whole story here.

Bonus: Why pro-labor Dems hate McGovern.

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  1. Bonus: Why pro-labor Dems hate McGovern.

    Honest native American, I have not clicked on the link yet. I’ll bet it’s because George holds that quaint belief that the best way to find out peoples genuine desire, free of intimidation, is a secret ballot and that the card check sytem so loved by organized labor (did I mention intimidation?) is complete anti-freedom bullshit.

    Now I’ll go to link and see if I’m right.

  2. OMG! I was right!

  3. Dang Nick, two consecutive posts bashing Obamanomics. Not that he doesn’t deserve the hate for ushering in the collapse of civilization. But this looks like you’re taking it personally. What’s a matter? Were you promised stimulus money and now Michelle isn’t taking your calls?

  4. Card check is the only way to stop management from intimidating the workers.

  5. People are sick of seeing every political issue or disagreement turned into a proxy battle in the hippies vs. squares fights of forty (forty? Good Lord, Forty!) years ago.

    Especially after having watched the Iraq hawks use Nixon-era language, and Nixon-era thinking, to get us into the Iraq War.

    Getting away from this pathological, divisive, polarizing boomerism is the subtext behind the election of Barack Obama, and trotting out the same lines used against George McGovern, Jane Fonda, and Abbie Hoffman, including the whole Ayers conspiracy, just played into his hands.

  6. joe was away all week writing that and waiting for a time to use it. Good comment joe.

  7. Obama is a boomer. Which is why he will fail.

    The worst generation in American history.

  8. joe, right on! The hippies and squares don’t even really exist anymore. Truly Obama is the first information age president. Whether or not we are headed into oblivion is still unknown. However, I’m fairly well-convinced it will be quite unlike anything this nation has seen before. No matter how i may object and squirm at Obama’s plans it sure doesn’t sound like “mora’ tha’ same!”

    Pointing out that his cabinet has mostly, if not totally ex-clintonites doesn’t really mean status quo. Then again, the 90s weren’t really a politcal age for me, so I dunno.

  9. No matter how i may object and squirm at Obama’s plans it sure doesn’t sound like “mora’ tha’ same!”

    Funny, it all sounds and looks like more of the same to me. More of the same people, more of the same policies and proposals, pretty much across the board.

  10. Maybe I shouldn’t criticize Obama, since I found out yesterday that I know a senior person on his transition team (another less senior member was my boss during my fellowship–and yes, that was during the Clinton years). I was thinking the Court of St. James would be nice, but I’d be content with NASA. Vrrroooommm!

  11. Obama is a boomer.

    No, socially, intellectually, culturally, and chronologically, he’s of the subsequent generation. The hippies vs. squares stuff of the SixtiesMann were his mother’s battles, and had about as much to do with the development of his worldview as the Cross of Gold speech.

    I suppose you can be an uberpedant and argue that the term “Boomer” has no cultural or political connotations, and point out that the post-WW2 bump in births continued into the early 60s, but chronology isn’t the issue here.

  12. Exactly who’s administration should Obama have mined for experienced people? Dubya’s? Perhaps Reagans, or Poppy Bush’s?

    Oh, I know: the Kerry administration.

  13. The revolution isn’t over yet, joe.

    The goddamn longhairs and establishment squares of yesteryear are still the ones calling the shots today.

    If the Republicans keep up their post-thrashing tantrum until the midterm elections, maybe the loss of even more congressional seats will convince them to move out of the ’70s.

    Obama’s election is a step in the right direction for the Democrats, but as long as Clinton and Kennedy surnames are attached to the people driving the wagon, the Democrats will still be feelin’ groovy.

  14. Wow dude, who would have think it. Thats pretty wild.

    Jess
    http://www.anonymity.at.tc

  15. R C,

    I think that was phalkor’s point. Sometimes I think we should enter a day-long truce on sarcasm, irony, and spoofing, just to have some direct discussions.

    Nah.

    joe,

    Whatever. I’m the next wave, and he isn’t like my people. I bet he can’t handle HTML, either. You know that there are first graders who can “code” HTML, right? ?

    By the way, the idea that he can only go to senior people from the Clinton years disregards the fact that the next tier of officials from that time or even from the Bush years have the experience and the capability of taking on more senior roles. Clinton did that, why can’t Obama? Because he’s incapable of original thought? That’s not my theory yet, but it could shove aside my current belief that he and Hillary switched bodies after the election.

  16. I do not remember hearing any Republicans calling Obama the new McGovern; the top results I got from a quick Google search were all from liberal sources. Irregardless, and I use that word incorrectly, the GOP needs a new playbook, because the one they are using right now ain’t working. They might want to look into the conservative philosophy I am hearing so much about these days.

  17. Why is it a good thing if it’s easier for workers to form unions?

    Construct the argument to completely misrepresent what’s really happening. That’s the way to do it.

  18. Hugh A.,

    The goddamn longhairs and establishment squares of yesteryear are still the ones calling the shots today.

    I agree completely, and I think people are sick of it. I think that a lot of the factors that played into Obama’s win, especially the backlash against the McCain campaign, was in many ways a rejection of refighting those battles.

    Pro Lib,

    This is the guy who had to have his Blackberry ripped from his hands, remember. Clearly, he’s not a born-on-the-web Gen Yer, but think of McCain not being able to use a web browser, or Bush talking about “a lot of rumors on the INTERNETS” in one of the 2004 debates.

    Clinton did that, why can’t Obama? To a certain extent, he has. Geithner over Summers, for example.

    I think – and the Panetta pick especially confirms this for me – that he is trying to stack his cabinet with heavyweights who have a lot of pull of their own in DC, to make up for the fact that he personally doesn’t have very deep roots there.

  19. Irregardless, and I use that word incorrectly…

    Is it possible to *misuse* a word that doesn’t exist? I’m not trying to be a pedant; I’m intrigued. Was Lewis Carrol right, that even with meaning-ciphers the grammatical rules are intact and can be used meaningfully?

  20. If Republicans and liberal hawks were correct in calling Obama a new McGovern, they only succeeded in proving how repellent most Americans, including many conservatives, find today’s GOP.

    This makes no sense.
    If they were correct, it would prove nothing of the sort; it would prove that Obama is the new McGovern*.

    *He’s not, in case you’re wondering.

    And the GOP is, in fact, the party of repellent, vitriolic, deliusional buffoons.

  21. Exactly who’s administration should Obama have mined for experienced people?

    CNN worked pretty well. I’m looked forward to an Animal Planet appointment next. Maybe Court TV has some talent. How about Judge Wapner – is he still kickin? Jack Bauer could oversee the Pakistan invasion. Maybe some former Enron consultant could formulate energy policy. See, this is the kind of out-of-the-box “thinking” we need.

  22. Is it possible to *misuse* a word that doesn’t exist?

    We know it exists. You have seen and heard it many times, yes? Even though it is word that has no correct usage.

  23. bigbig,

    I want the guy who narrated those History Channel World War 2 specials to be the next SecDef.

    And also too, Enron isn’t a television show.

  24. personally I LOVE the term “internets” and the neu-grammar that the internets have spawned. Otherwise such phrases wouldn’t be understood.

    “teh fail”

    “pwned”

    “1337”

    “stop trolling my internets”

    “Godwin’ed”

    ” ”

    I NEED my executive branch to speak the language of the internets.

  25. We know it exists. You have seen and heard it many times, yes? Even though it is word that has no correct usage.

    Phenomenologically, obviously it exists. But without some level of prescription, an arrangement of syllabic sounds/letters even existing as a visual or aural phenomena may still not be a word in the sense of having a meaning. If there is no *proper* way to use that arrangement of syllables, upon what grounds can we call it a word?

  26. Was Lewis Carrol right

    JD Salinger liked to use the phrase “very unique”. Makes my skin crawl, but Catcher was so good that I defer to his expertise. Recently Merriam-Webster conceded as well.

  27. Elemenope, it seems that you are of the school of words must have meanings and that is the crux of our disagreement.

  28. FrBunny,

    Most excellent comment 🙂

  29. Is it possible to *misuse* a word that doesn’t exist?

    It was a Les Nessman special…5 time winner of the Buckeye Newshawk aware and the coveted Silver Sow.

  30. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.

    That sounds exactly like something the Messiah-elect would say.

  31. “People are sick of seeing every political issue or disagreement turned into a proxy battle in the hippies vs. squares fights of forty (forty? Good Lord, Forty!) years ago.”

    oh i dunno when i tune into bill maher’s show and he’s saying things like “everything good about america is cosmopolitan” and “the south shouldn’t be allowed to vote” then i see sarah palin talking about certain states being “pro-america states” i think there are still fights in the cultural divide in this country. maybe not hippie vs. square but city folk vs. small town folk.

  32. If there is no *proper* way to use that arrangement of syllables, upon what grounds can we call it a word?

    Ah, but here – is a word not a word until it becomes a neologism? Who decides what is and is not proper? In France there is a body that oversees the french language. The US has no such body for American Standardized English, and recently such words as “bootylicious” (I hate using that example, but it’s the one always used) have been included in Webster’s.

    Is the point that you are making that “irregardless” is an incorrect form of an actual word, and the meaning of “irregardless” is not “not a word,” but rather an incorrect word?

  33. Elemenope,

    What we seem to have here is a word whose only meaning is as an indicator of the speaker’s parodic intent. It’s only meaning is that it doesn’t have a meaning, and thereby signifies that the user is referencing people who misuse or mangle the real word.

    Like “teh.”

  34. P Brooks,

    Messiah-elect? Having issues with your faith and our new president before lunch are you?

  35. Elemenope,

    Who decides if its use is proper or not? I can imagine a future world where no one blinks at the term “irregardless,” just as we no longer blink at 17th century slang words like “mob” (coming from the latin term mobile vulgus).

  36. t.j.,

    I think there are certainly still culture war divides in this country, and there may even be advantages in exploiting them, but to do so effectively, the user needs to make sure not to make the fight appear to be part of the old, Nixon-era culture war.

  37. That’s not my theory yet, but it could shove aside my current belief that he and Hillary switched bodies after the election.

    I’m the Captain!

  38. joe,

    It pretty clearly has a meaning; even people who view its use as problematic recognize what a speaker or writer means by using the term.

    Reinmoose,

    I shy away from linguistic prescriptivism myself.

  39. Maher is a boomer, and Palin is what an internet spam bot would be if it were made flesh, given a vagina, and elected to public office. She was repeating lines fed to her by Schmidt.

  40. I think city vs. small town is oversimplifying, or rather misidentifying the divide along lines that seem related to the actual divide. There are cities that are less cosmopolitan than some small towns, and part of that is built around way-of-life. In some small towns, they function more as cities in that people can walk to work, the grocery store, etc. and feel safe and comfortable doing so, than many small-range cities that are stricken with blight and such, where the distances between places and the charicter of the in-between is not conducive to such community.
    I do not have a proposal for what the actual divide is.

  41. Boomers abound in my company, and they all have Blackberries. My dad is a pre-boomer and he’s at least as Internet and PC literate as I am. Boomerism isn’t about not getting information technology.

  42. BTW, its silly to assume small town means conservative.

    Charlottesville, VA isn’t exactly a major metropolitan area and its as uber-liberal as Vermont.

  43. Reinmoose,

    I think city vs. small town is oversimplifying, or rather misidentifying the divide along lines that seem related to the actual divide. Good point.

    I’ll note that this oversimplification comes not from people describing the culture war tactics employed by politicians and activists, but is an integral part of those tactics themselves. For example, trying to convince people in Raleigh or Phoenix that they’re small town folk, not like those city slickers.

  44. And come to think of it, Vermont is another example of rural liberalism.

  45. Elemenope, it seems that you are of the school of words must have meanings and that is the crux of our disagreement.

    Oh Heavens no. I don’t really have a fully formed opinion yet on the issue. I’m throwing the question out there because hearing other people’s instincts on an issue helps me to think about the dimensions of the thing.

    I guess my question, more sharply, is this: Grammatical rules hold such that certain *types* of words have a (somewhat under)determined relationship to one another while in use. Nouns occupy certain places in sentences, they relate to verbs in certain ways, are modified by words called adjectives, etc. etc.. My question is that if a word is a meaning-cipher, can it be assigned a grammatical category by some method other than a completely arbitrary one?

  46. Smaller towns and rural, unicorporated areas, tend to be Republican areas, and urban areas tend to be Democratic areas. Newer suburbs tend to be Republican; older suburbs tend to be Democratic. Now, there are plenty of exceptions to the above rules, but the vast majority of the time they apply.

  47. My question is that if a word is a meaning-cipher, can it be assigned a grammatical category by some method other than a completely arbitrary one?

    I’m not sure I completely understand this question, but “irregardless” can easily be assigned a grammatical category because we know which word it’s substituted for. This is a relatively easy one. Similarly “alot” is substituted for “a lot.” Would most of us say that “alot” is not a word? Probably, but it’s merely a written error whereas “irregardless” is incorrectly substituted for “regardless” in both writing and speech. So “alot” is considered a misspelling and “irregardless” is likely something else, right?

  48. Who decides if its use is proper or not?

    The more general question is “by what process do uses become proper?”. I’m not a authoritarian prescriptivist (like the French academy) by any means, but nevertheless I think there is a distinction to be made between words and Jabberwocky.

    Pathological cases, like ‘irregardless’, ‘ain’t’, and of course, ‘Jabberwocky’, help to expose the mechanism by which syllable structures become words with meanings, and whether there really is a category division between the two.

  49. Do not despair! Obama intends to house a Grammar Czar in the new Department of Culture. All such questions will be answered by the Grammar Czar. Failure to comply with the Official Grammar of the United States shall be met by the full wrath of law.

  50. I’m not sure I completely understand this question, but “irregardless” can easily be assigned a grammatical category because we know which word it’s substituted for.

    Let us assume for a moment that we didn’t. Take a term like “festigio”. We have no clues as to what it is meant to cipher, though we gain more if it is used in a sentence in place of a word. But then, some words are both nouns and verbs (and the really obnoxious ones can be that *and* adjectives), and my instinctual reaction is that such a cipher is radically underdetermined for meaning unless supplied with *sufficient* context. But how could we know what amount of context is sufficient?

  51. BDB – I haven’t lived near there in quite a few years, but it always used to be the case that the urban – so to speak – areas of Vermont were liberal, and the rural areas were “leave me the hell alone” conservative.

  52. There are urban areas in Vermont?

  53. George McGovern-a temperamental conservative…and a committed decentralist

    Say what? You mean this George McGovern?

    “The highest single domestic priority of the next administration will be to ensure that every American able to work has a job…it is our firm commitment that whatever employment the private sector does not provide, the Federal government will either stimulate or provide itself….Therefore, we intend to begin by putting millions back to work….a program to put America back to work demands that work be properly rewarded. It means a system of national health insurance so that a worker can afford decent health care for himself and his family….It means real enforcement of the laws so that the drug racketeers are put behind bars….There is a depletion allowance for oil wells, but no depletion for the farmer who feeds us, or the worker who serves as all.” *

    *Democratic National Convention
    Miami Beach, Florida
    July 14, 1972

  54. Weird bit of synchronicity:

    Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Blog has a post discussing basically the same thing.

    Huh.

  55. There are urban areas in Vermont?

    Burlington. Yeah, it’s a small city, but it’s a small state.

  56. Do not despair! Obama intends to house a Grammar Czar in the new Department of Culture. All such questions will be answered by the Grammar Czar. Failure to comply with the Official Grammar of the United States shall be met by the full wrath of law.

    Maybe the czar will follow the lead of the Postal Service’s “official abbreviations”–which have largely been adopted for many non-mail-related uses.

  57. ed,

    I wonder what happened to George McGovern and what cause him to be such a sellout lately.

  58. Don’t forget the state capital, Montpelier.

  59. Burlington is a city in the very loosest sense of the word. Its mostly college town central. It looks like some of the small cities around Boston proper.

  60. Exactly who’s administration should Obama have mined for experienced people?

    Since it is, apparently, unthinkable to go outside the Beltway for people staff an administration.

    I mean, what would someone who runs a large multinational corporation know about how to handle branch offices in dozens of countries?

    What would somebody who has turned around a corporation know about group dynamics and changing organizational culture?

  61. Maybe the czar will follow the lead of the Postal Service’s “official abbreviations”–which have largely been adopted for many non-mail-related uses.

    Nein, der Wichser! Wo wohnen Sie? Das geht mir am Arsch vorbei! Diese “two-letter codes” ist echt Schei?e!

  62. R C,

    I figured that suggesting state officials or private sector professionals would just get some sort of blank look. That is, of course, completely correct.

  63. RC,

    In case you haven’t noticed, Washington DC operates somewhat differently from corporate America, with its own rules. Not only that, but even after 8 years of George Bush, there are still very different sets of networks and contacts.

    Although I’ll note that your comment is completely consistent with your longstanding criticism of the Bush administration for itself appointing DC insiders instead of corporate chieftains. Oh, wait, you didn’t ever utter a word about that.

  64. Although it would be fun to watch some corporate bigwig with no contacts or pull in Washington get stymied by the insiders, realize he has no pull or allies to get around, and complain over drinks “But I’m rich! I’ve managed a business with over 10,000 employees all over the world! Don’t these bureaucrats understand that?” as his efforts go nowhere.

  65. Nein, der Wichser! Wo wohnen Sie? Das geht mir am Arsch vorbei! Diese “two-letter codes” ist echt Schei?e!

    As czar, you’ll also need to brush up on this batch and this batch. (Note to self: Remember to fight the power by abbreviating “Avenue” as “Av.” and “Floor” as “Flr.”)

  66. Brush up? Why bother? As Czar, I shall be the sole arbiter of what is and is not correct grammar. In fact, grammar shall henceforth be spelled Papah?naumoku?kea.

  67. Since it is, apparently, unthinkable to go outside the Beltway for people staff an administration.

    Yea, folks from The Farm in Summertown, TN or IT related issues being handled by folks from The Well in CA, etc.

    Omaba is not perfect, but he is a lot better than what we have had.

  68. Omaba is not perfect, but he is a lot better than what we have had.

    As disturbing as this will sound, that’s yet to be proven. He could be worse. Just noodle that around a bit.

  69. Boston | January 8, 2009, 11:52am | #

    Burlington is a city in the very loosest sense of the word. Its mostly college town central. It looks like some of the small cities around Boston proper.

    You know, like Cambridge. Or Lowell.

    Those are cities, and not even in a loose sense.

  70. I was thinking more like the suburban parts of brookline. Or at least thats how the city appearent to me when i was driving around it.

  71. Boston,

    Ah, now I see.

    The really urban part of Burlington is by the lake, downtown. Which is wicked awesome to walk around in January, and a real pain to drive in pretty much year round.

  72. Indeed. Last time i went to there on the way to Montreal there wasn’t a dunkins donuts. It was unbelievable. I was shell shocked.

  73. Oh, man. That’s probably more a result of anti-chain zoning than of Burlington’s smallness.

    I’ll bet you could buy a mocha in a recycled cup from a girl with a nose ring every day for a month without going to the same place twice.

  74. Every town in the northeast that I’ve been to that had anti-chain zoning has had an exception for DD. It was an odd experience. I’ll have to take a look at this urban port of Burlington.

  75. Obama’s only been in office for -12 days, and already he’s… he’s… he’s no McGovern, that’s for sure!

    I actually enjoy reading AmConMag as a bracing tonic now and again, but they sure live on a different planet over there.

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