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September 02, 2008


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Mordy Shinefield

Thanks for writing this up. :)


Bad vs. worse - I'll pick bad.



Joe Clement

Obama/Biden are not, of themselves, the antidote to political cynicism. There are lots of Leftists (and otherwise) out there who take the cynical pragmatic view of Obama, which is almost universally expressed by claiming him as "our best choice." You can't say something like that without at the same time giving a nod to the liberal-democratic conviction that we actually have a variety of electoral choices, and moreover, that we should vote what we believe. In other words, they know very well that Obama is not their ideal choice, but they act as if this were not the case.

On it's face, this makes the pragmatic argument for voting for Obama seem cynical, but that is only if one equates voting with support for or belief in a candidate. This goes hand-in-hand with the belief that your vote is your own special endorsement of what you believe in, and also that there is abso-fucking-lutely nothing actually constraining the effect your vote has in effecting your political will.

What this means is that not only should we advocate voting for Obama for the pragmatic reason, but that we also insist on the pragmatic distinction between our vote and our support. That is to say, and this cuts to the center of political cynicism and the limits of liberal democracy, advocate voting for Obama not because he is our best choice, but because our actual choice is far more important---viz. the (formal) freedom to vote for whomever we OR (actually) achieve political determination.

There is more at stake in this election ideologically than if "our society is one in which the officially acknowledged ideology claims that torture is sometimes useful, that some couples destroy the fabric of society, that its perfectly fine if the top 1% of the population are vastly wealthier than all the rest." As long as the official ideology claims that we have by Thomas Jefferson's God's Right an unfettered choice in these matters, then war, discrimination and exploitation will continue with the same ambiguous responsibility - neither clearly on the side of the gub'mint or The People.



patrick j. mullins

"Zizek's position on Obama is rooted in the realization that appearances matter. It matters whether our society is one in which the officially acknowledged ideology claims that torture is sometimes useful, that some couples destroy the fabric of society, that its perfectly fine if the top 1% of the population are vastly wealthier than all the rest. "

And so these (especially the last) are 'appearances.'

The only thing new here is that Zizek is acting in good conscience. He is not cynical, but this does not mean the Democrats are NOT cynical. That was the all-important question anyway, wasn't it? Of course, since we will never have enough common ground to argue this seriously, and 'politics is what you write about', this is wonderful the way Zizek can allow one to vote for Obama while remaining outside everything but these importance appearance issues.

Mr. Clement has once again said what you paid no attention to the first time.

"The truth of the claim, then, rests not simply in whether Obama, Biden, and their handlers believe it. It's more than that, the minimal or virtual difference that shifts the entire political frame, that creates opportunities that otherwise would have been foreclosed."

And don't you think EVERYBODY knows this? And that we don't need Zizek to tell us that. Any idiot could figure it out, and long ago did.

I now sincerely hope that you do NOT vote for Obama, as I have no more reason to respect all these endless posts you have spewed to 'work out your conscience' on the vote. Zizek 'may or may not' have given you the key. But what's important is to reiterate that Zizek is not cynical in supporting the Democrats, because he does it so seductively and subtly, somehow above it all, that there is 'a way out', in which one holds one's nose when one goes to the polls and does as Zizek would have us do. Or figures out an imaginative way why this cannot be done even with the Master's blessing.

So don't talk to me about 'friends', while telling me, essentially, that you just want me off your blog because I got in the way of academic time and decorum, in which the moment had to be waited for in which we'd find out from the Ceritified Source that we could prevent self-corruption while indulging in someone else's corruption (the Democrats.)

The whole thing makes me puke. Yes, we DID think we were friends ,that's right.



In the first paragraph of the quote, the part of the sentence that describes appearances is 'officially acknowledged ideology.' So there is a difference between a state that illegally practices torture and a state that says it is legal to torture,

The key point of Joe's comment seems to me to be the difference between vote and support. This seems to me to correspond to a post I wrote several weeks ago when I argued that the issue for leftists is not who they vote for and that we should not be coerced into not criticizing Obama because of the Democratic position that the only thing that matters now is the election.

I don't think 'everybody knows' "the truth of the claim..." stuff. I don't know myself how much I think it is correct or not.

Some folks in the comment section asked about Zizek's argument. I tried to repeat it in the most convincing way I could. As I said, I'm not sure what I think. And this is the 'working out of my conscience' that you are sick of. I can imagine that it gets pretty boring for folks who've read this blog for a long time, the same old perpetual whining. But that's it.

I didn't tell you, though, that I wanted you off the blog. If I did, I'd just block you.

Joe Clement


I remember that post. My comment on it then correspond to my comment now. The point of my making these comments that the logic that sustains "don't criticize Obama" goes deeper than simply that the Democrats say the election is all that matters right now.

I didn't get a chance to work it into the above comment, but "choice" is not only the linch-pin of the cynical Democrat who, but the "vote your conscience" third-party advocates too. The latter are all-too-ready to tell you that they don't believe in voting in "the lesser of two-evils," a sentiment, even when being rejected, that illustrates the moralistic impulse that governs their vote. That is to say, there progressive critics of Obama out there, but they still accept the forced-choice of "your vote or your critique." In this case, since they are not voting for Obama they are free to criticize him.

I disagree where you say that the issue for Leftists is not who you vote for. There are definite pragmatic stakes in this election, which at this point I do not think can be re-arranged. That's the easy part though. The hard part is the equally crucial issue, which has to do with the ideological stake in *how we come to vote for whomever we do.* This is where the distinction between vote and support becomes crucial, because on it hinges how the Left even perceives political organization. If Obama is elected primarily by "he's our best choice" reasoning, or worse, uncritically ardent support, the Left loses this election.

I know you know this, but what is not clear to me is whether you see that there is a certain kind of sacrifice involved in what the Left has to do. It has to, above all, sacrifice its cozy alliance with some key liberal democratic values---namely, freedom of choice and Centrism. Obama's presidency could "brings with it a whole set of different potentials, different possibilities," only if we show that The People's will exceeds the legitimacy of it. That's where your potential and possibilities are.


Joe (first, sorry for the delay in my response). My thoughts on this are confused. And I'm also not clear on your point. I think you are saying that the left should sacrifice any faith in electoral politics and that this sacrifice means rejecting the two party system no matter what. What has to be sacrificed is hope that the small change will make a difference. In your second to the last sentence, what is the referent of 'it'--the Obama presidency? If so, what do you mean when you say show that the People's will exceeds its legitimacy? I don't think there is a will of the People at some kind of ontological level. I think we attempt to call one into being and that as we do it will necessarily exceed and resist and thwart and object to such a call.

patrick j. mullins

This is what he originally wrote. If this does not mean one should vote for Obama in addition to the rest of it, then people simply write for their little marginal groups. He probably did mean, after all, what you said, and if he did, he should have clarified it for me when I misunderstood it before:

"The finite demand we should circulate is two-fold: not only should people vote for Obama for the pragmatic reason, however unsatisfying, but we should demand on this distinction between voting for and supporting Obama, or else the demand for supporting Obama will always echo: Critique or Vote! "

I had thought that meant what you finally put via Zizek in this post, but apparently it didn't. In this way, if you are interpreting him correctly (which I hope he will clarify), he really is saying that the two-party system must be sacrificed no matter what, and that 'the small change' must be sacrificed. If he always had meant what you think he meant, then I, in my power which is at least as great as any 3rd Party, can decide what the future of the left may be.

patrick j. mullins

In this case, since they are not voting for Obama they are free to criticize him.

Which, of course, doesn't follow at all, you can vote for Obama while still criticizing him as well as when not voting for him. And you can do this in any case, no matter what claims are made to the contrary. That's what I thought Clement meant to begin with, which is definitely what Zizek meant, at least in Jodi's description of how he perceives what Obama might mean. And it's very good, Zizek is very good here. And I like very much the difficult position he puts some people in by having said this.

"If Obama is elected primarily by "he's our best choice" reasoning, or worse, uncritically ardent support, the Left loses this election."

Oh yes? And if these 'ideal world conditions' are not met, then how does the Left contrive to 'have won the election?' In most people's understanding of English, the Left definitely loses the election if Obama loses, unless they are this cerebral bunch of thinkers whose fragility is left unbroken by having voted or not for Obama with the right attitude going into the polling place. There are some kinds of silly thinking that ought to result in firings. Interestingly, Zizek has proved himself worthy of keeping his position by this clever and true assessment of at least part of the matter.

You have to choose now between Zizek and old definitions of critique. Or am I still not comprehending such sophisticatad language? So that, in foreclosing these possibilities, the Left has 'sacrificed the hope' of the small change, and therefore we can look forward to a Left of martyrs, very little different from how they are described by the most rabid right-wingers at the Convention? Yes, we will have plenty of those--or rather a small number of plenty--no matter what. Many leftists will think this is Zizek 'selling out.'

What the next highly delicate challenge for the true Leftist will be 'how to vote for Obama without voting for Biden.' Now, that's the real challenge, and the one that is showing everybody's true colours right now. The sensitivity of the purism-Leftists just takes the breath away--it's virtually Quaker in its scope.


Zizek writes critically of sacrificial logics and the false heroics of the beautiful soul; in this vein, he argues that what has to be sacrificed is this very sacrifical logic that maintains the pure position. There is no such thing, either politically or theoretically.

The point about the conditions for the left winning or losing the election that you gloss from Joe Clement is interesting: from my perspective, the left isn't even in this election, so it can't win or lose.

Joe Clement


I did not meant that the Left should reject the two-party system, which as far as I am concerned includes the excluded category of any and all third-parties, at all costs. What I meant by sacrifice is giving up the belief that, as Zizek puts it making fun of Fukayama, we have "found the formula." When I hear true-believers (in Obama), those who cynically claim "he's our best choice" and those who opt for third-parties I hear the same ideological affirmation of liberal-democracy. That pretense of choice is what I am claiming has to be sacrificed, for how else can it appear to those who otherwise affirm this freedom of choice.

You are right about the Left not even being in this election, but that is not the same as saying there isn't something to be done by the Left. I reject the passivity of the Beautiful Soul too, which is the cynical position I have yet to mention, the cynical position par excellence: these are the people who are most vocal about there being no actual freedom of choice, but in usually affirming the moral purity of their free choice not-to-vote they act as if they didn't know what they know. I am not arguing about a sacrifice that wins or loses this or any election; it's not about winning or losing, but about what we give up or don't give up. It is on this level that Lenin refused the position of compromise advocated by the Mensheviks and other social democrats.

I think we're talking very closely past each other. The thing is, I see you (and even ZIzek) emphasizing the importance of the appearances being held up by national figures, while I want to emphasize the appearances being held up at the much less important level of the people with whom I and you interact on a daily basis. I am advocating an analytic position, an particular kind of engagement with the received knowledge that we are the master in our own house of choices, but particularly electoral choices.

patrick j. mullins

Thank you so much for speaking to Jodi, Joe Clement. Having once been a fan, I now reject all of your opaque and dismal convolution and riffs on Leninist nightmares. It is no nice to have freedom of choice within one's own home, and most especially do I want to emphasize the 'much less important level' and 'holding up the appearances that you and Jodi do with your everyday interactions.' What I also want to see is these interactive engagements forced into a confrontation of whether or not one agrees or not to 'an analytic position' that one could participate in while shopping at the supermarket, doing one's job, changing one's little baby's diapers, and all the rest of the things that happen in Socialist housing when the 'hog mind' has been eradicated--such hog mind being 'liberal-democracy', one supposes. This hoggish liberal democracy is nevertheless much better than what you advocate, and you have yet to say whether one should vote for Obama or not. Your writing is impossible, and you and I have no respect for each other. Fuck this shit.

patrick j. mullins

Yes, things like this: "It has to, above all, sacrifice its cozy alliance with some key liberal democratic values---namely, freedom of choice and Centrism."

This was the dead giveaway of the whole ruse. But before, when I said I was voting for McCain, I didn't mean it. I was calling the bluff, insulting the stupidity or intelligence or whatever an analytic position would call it. Now I realize I am in the same position of the victimized 3rd Party leftist when told that 'Obama is the least bad choice' or 'our best choice'. Especially since I live in a Blue State, my vote will not prevent Obama's electoral win in New York.

So, just as Jodi took advantage of this positioning and voted for Nader twice, I have no choice but to vote for McCain, and I have made up my mind to do so. I think that, when McCain wins, and it's very likely that he will, I will feel much better about it than when I voted for Kerry and Gore instead of Ralph Nader, who was the only other logical candidate. Who would have ever imagined that it was all a vast left-wing conspiracy of people who did a big con job about how their Nader-'n'-Green votes were so important. Right. They're not. The only logical solution is to vote directly for McCain, and I'm going to do it. This way, I can offend Zizek as well--and offend all the leftists in their dogged irresponsibility I do want to do. Yes, that's it. Let them while away the hours ruminating in their pastures. I also prefer Cindy to know how to do the White House anyway, Michelle would be only a passable First Lady. Cindy will be the best President since Jackie.

What I want to avoid at all costs is Centrism, and therefore the choice is only between McCain and Nader or whatever Socialist is running, maybe it's warszawa Pinkerton for all I know. Nothing like some lefties to turn you into an OVERT Republican.

Joe Clement

I have said, and you have even quoted me saying it, that one should vote for Obama, Patrick. Why do you say I haven't? The point I brought up and have been re-iterating, which for a time at least you seemed to comprehend and appreciate, is that the pragmatic argument for voting for Obama gets lost in a whole lot of cynical posturing.

patrick j. mullins

when I voted for Kerry and Gore instead of Ralph Nader, who was the only other logical candidate.

Apologies, that should have read 'voted for Kerry and Gore instead of Ralph Nader, since they were the only ones running in terms of elections. Whether or not George Bush ever even really appeared is another line of hermaneutics worth going down the primrose path of.

patrick j. mullins

The point I brought up and have been re-iterating, which for a time at least you seemed to comprehend and appreciate, is that the pragmatic argument for voting for Obama gets lost in a whole lot of cynical posturing.

Okay, then! But Jodi did not think you were saying this, and you would not reiterate it, you would not respond to my many entreaties until now. What do you think, Jodi's not tough enough for you to reiterate that the pragmatic reason should be done? You could have easily done so, we're not at a fancy-dress ball.

Anyway, thanks for clarifying. Because you had needed to do it again if you did not seem to be contradicting yourself. And, of course, yes, now that you have been explicit, the rest of your things can again make sense. There's no reason to confuse people--either of you.

Joe Clement


I did not intend to confuse you or anyone. I tried to get my point across, in part, by saying some things in voices other than my own. Clearly I didn't do as good a job a I would have liked.

patrick j. mullins

That's cool. Now that we're clear, I think your points are very interesting, of course. And the matter of cynical posturing getting in the way of the pragmatic argument is extremely important, so I hope you can get it through numerous persons' heads.The importance of the pragmatic argument for Obama is that it at least is starting with something concrete given what we do have now.

Joe Clement

Alright. Well, now that that is cleared up, I have a Society For Creative Anachronism event to go to; I'll be gone for the next couple days.

Can you believe Milton Friedman's son, David, has been a king in two different kingdoms? This is a big thing, because as king of the Middle Kingdom, he challenged the East Kingdom to a war. At the time it wasn't received, until when Friedman became king of the East Kingdom some years later. This sparked the biggest SCA event in the world, Pennsic War, which happens once a year for a whole month---they even get their own zip-code I hear.

parody center

Why do you even bother with Scarlett, Patrick, when all she can think about is Ashley? I turned her into a parody star, spent long hours writing her scripts, told her about dr. Zizek's hidden agenda, won the war against Sherbert FOR HER SAKE ONLY, put my ass between the two of you when push came to shove, often trembled anticipating whether she will find the next line, and even frolicked with Mehmet to make her jealous - and what do I get in return? Weeks, sometimes months of no comments. Do you really expect her to agree with you on anything, ever.


Even if your exploits go unacknowledged, Dejan, they are not unrecognized.

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