Barney Frank’s New York Magazine interview has only gotten attention for what he said about healthcare reform, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff in it, starting with this:
I believe very strongly that people on the left are too prone to do things that are emotionally satisfying and not politically useful. I have a rule, and it’s true of Occupy, it’s true of the gay-rights movement: If you care deeply about a cause, and you are engaged in an activity on behalf of that cause that is great fun and makes you feel good and warm and enthusiastic, you’re probably not helping, because you’re out there with your friends, and political work is much tougher and harder. And I think it’s now clear that it is the disciplined political work that we’ve been able to do that’s won us victories. I am going to write about the history of the LGBT movement partly to make the point that, in America at least, this is the way you do progressive causes.
The story of how he came out to Tip O’Neill is also pretty good.
I would be very interested in reading his book.
And Barney, we’re going to miss you.
[I’ve been blessed with a cat sitting in the morning sun, bathing. Kitty yoga.]
c u n d gulag
He’s got a point.
When I was heavily involved in the anti-war, anti-rendition, movements in Fayetteville, NC, I met some very serious activist’s, and a some ‘Good-time Charliesa, and Charlene’s,” who came for the social aspects of events and rallies – and some of them were “professionals,” or experienced, protest people.
We spent a lot of time telling them why they couldn’t do something in Fayetteville that they may have done in another town, because our town was the home of Fort Bragg.
And that what they wanted to do would have serious repurcussions for those of us activists who lived there, and were doing our best to be respectful of the men and women in the military, while at the same time protesting the Bush Administrations illegal wars, torture, and rendition.
These clowns caused us more problems, than the damn Freepers!
Yes, Barney: being gassed, beaten and arrested while a part of the “feel good” Occupy movement is so silly. We need real political supermen such as yourself to fix things for us, so we’ll just sit back passively like good little citizens and give your our money and votes.
Talk about an authoritarian mindset.
what does that even mean?
cuz persuasion doesn’t work on organic conservatives.
See The Republican Brain and The Social Conquest of Earth.
Thankfully, the true hard, effective work of activism, signing an internet petition, was spared his ire.
@Ben Wolf: Perfectly put. I wonder what Frank thinks of the Stonewall riots…would he contend that the advancement of gay rights in America was solely the result of benevolent legislators?
Also, I *love* the pie filter. Thank you, cleek.
Sure, there are tough times, but I don’t think gay rights would have advanced so quickly if it didn’t look like some people were having fun
@Ben Wolf: Thank you Glenzilla Sock-Puppet Number 1, and all the add-on ‘Zillas.
Here’s what Frank means, I think, and he’s spot on.
Rethuglicans have taken over the public discourse with a disciplined political program that started the day after Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, and culminated 16 years later with the election of Ronald Ray-Gunn (of cursed memory) in 1980.
This was done with a multi-pronged attack on state houses, county court houses, school boards, Congressional districts. It involved media. It involved (what could be presented as) research cranked out of (what were claimed to be) research institutions. It involved actually coming up with a plan and sticking to it over a period of decades.
Put that up against an internet petition or an occasional protest — even one that lasts over a period of weeks — and what do you get?
You get a “Center Right” nation where the “liberal socialist Kenyan Muslim” actually endorses supply-side, Voodoo economics and lets torturers skate away.
Now we can always primary Obama and carry around giant puppets.
Or we can work within the actual political system to start getting liberals elected at the grassroots, and keep at it over a period of decades. The later is the “hard political work” that Frank is talking about.
If it makes you feel dirty to work within the Democratic Party to do real political work, learn to enjoy your righteous indignation in a state that drifts ever further to the right.
Odie Hugh Manatee
Aww, c’mon. Throwing glitter on the people you have a problem with is politically effective!
Barney is right, let the butthurt manic progressive whining commence.
Oh, right. It never stops.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Egypt Steve: Shorter Egypt Steve: Here’s a 2×4 to the head. While you’re unconscious, let me tell you why you’re wrong.
My beef with this paragraph from Frank is that it’s in the same article where he says the Democrats spent too much effort on Health Care reform. What happened to all of the hard work that was done on that?
@Egypt Steve: Very well put.
Kinda like the hard work of passing the ACA and giving millions access to healthcare?
Thank you Egypt Steve. Why am I not shocked that Frank’s advice would go over some people’s heads?
I would suggest that true change is accomplished only with a multi-pronged approach: Barney’s way plus the Occupy way plus the MoveOn way. And maybe the internet way, too.
If we need all of these approaches [and we do], then it doesn’t matter which is “best.”
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Odie Hugh Manatee: The glitter thing is pure stupid. But I think the Occupy movement is what Frank is talking about, even if he’s not admitting it. They weren’t doing an online petition, they were sitting in the cold and dealing with cops and cities that just wanted them to go away. It not only drove the conversion back to where we all wanted, but I suspect Komen and ALEC would have gotten away with their stuff had the Occupy groups had not shown that it’s time to stand up.
The Onion had a story a few years back, headlined, “Gay Pride Parade Sets Back Gay Acceptance 50 Years,” with some pictures of particularly flamboyant folks parading. They had quotes from spectators saying, “I used to think gay people were just normal folks like us, but not any more.”
I think there’s a kernel in truth in the Onion spoof. It’s absolutely amazing how quickly public opinion has changed on gay rights and gay marriage. And it’s not thanks to pride parades. It’s thanks to lots of ordinary gay people coming out. When everyone saw how normal and, well, boring most gay people were, attitudes changed overnight.
My brother is a good example. He was kind of antigay, but then bought a condo next door to a gay couple. They were friendly and, well, kind of boring. He told me, “Hey, if they want to get married, what kind of a dick would I have to be to say that’s any of my business?” And that was well before they helped him when he had an accident and was temporarily disabled.
Haw,haw,haw,Occupiers r stoopid, haw, haw,haw. They’re actually dumb enough to believe there’s something wrong in having banks that are too big to fail. Good thing Barney Frank was on the case and helped pass legislation…oh, what’s this? http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-16/obama-bid-to-end-too-big-to-fail-undercut-as-banks-grow.html. Never mind.
I believe very strongly that people on the right are prone to do things that are emotionally satisfying and not politically useful as well, like wearing three-cornered hats and holding up pictures of the president with his face painted to look like the Joker.
People in general would rather do things that are emotionally satisfying than that are politically useful.
Now we can always primary Obama and carry around giant puppets. Or we can work within the actual political system to start getting liberals elected at the grassroots, and keep at it over a period of decades.
This is a false choice (nice hyperbole in conflating the Occupy movement with “let’s primary Obama,” by the way.) It seems obvious to me that both public protest and long-term organized political action are necessary.
Who knew being pepper sprayed was great fun and makes you feel good?
@EconWatcher: One of the points of having the parades though was letting those “boring” normal types know that at least at a certain time and place, they were safe. So safe that even the most flamboyant queen could walk down main street at noon and nothing would happen to him.
@Ben Wolf: so, Barney Frank is the enemy now. Got it.
“Our list of allies grows thin.”
@Linda Featheringill:Yep Yep Yep.All of it works.
Wow, I’m sooooo thrilled to know that in order to “save” this country, that Dems are supposed to fight back by developing their own phony research institutions to make up phony data to sell to the rubes on a phony cable channel.
Really, Dems gotta make shit up, invent complete bullshit out of thin air, in order to compete with Republicans? I think I’d rather move to Canada.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): Without the Occupy movement, sorry to say, the issue of income inequality would not have even merited a passing mention by the MSM. While such “emotionally satisfying” forms of action may not be particularly effective, whatever it is that “serious” people on the Left have been doing over the past 40 years has also not been particularly effective. Gay rights have been the sole issue of my lifetime where we have seen significant progress, while on most other issues near and dear to the Left we have experienced nothing but setback after setback.
If Barney really thinks that people making noise in the public square has no impact on what politically-negotiated solutions ultimately look like, he’s got an awfully unusual understanding of American history.
You miss the 800 lb gorilla in the room: Money and the self-interest of the monied.
There’s the Corporatist Party, which completely owns the GOP (in fact and by temperament) and almost all of the Democratic Party (in fact if not entirely by temperament), and then there’s the rest of us. How on God’s green earth do you think that all the “research” got done, all that organization over decades, all the leadership? Those people were and are paid by individuals and interests that ultimately align with the corporatist goals.
THIS is what has been happening since Goldwater, not some magical level of individual discipline inherent to the 27 percenters.
That’s why I love Barney Frank, right there. Imagine if more Democrats had his low tolerance for BS and the courage to say so.
I think Barney is overall correct in his analysis of the political slog work needed to exact change. But I disagree with his lumping the Occupy movement into that cat. I have been and continue to be impressed by their rejection of political labels, with a simple message of people reacting to a basic wrong in our society these days. And that is unequal wealth distribution in this country, that if not admitted and understood as the first step to change, the rampant greed will destroy the capitalist model with too much supply side policy and not enough demand side policy.
Their mission, as I saw it, was simply to change the conversation in the right direction at the time, and the fact that they weren’t political operatives was what made it work. Now that we are in full campaign mode, it was essential for the national debate to be clarified, and both the Occupy movement and the Obama campaign operated in tandem to change the dialogue. If the protestors had taken a left wing political tact, I don’t think it would have worked, and they could have easily been demagogued as soshulist rabble by the wingnuts. My hat is off to these people, as they maintained that simple message discipline in a raucus spurt of energy and willingness to put their bodies on the line. I don’t care if they were young, unpolitical aligned, or even if they’ve recently voted, or not.
@Punchy: Excuse me for being unclear. I don’t endorse the specifics of what the Evildoers did in their plan to take over the country. I do endorse coming up with a plan of our own, and working it consistently for as long as it takes.
@EconWatcher: Gay Pride Parades are tame compared to Mardi Gras. Heck, even Folsom is several notches higher on the prudery scale.
Methinks you got the wrong end of that Onion joke.
Oh please. Every time someone mentions this (very salient) point, professional protesters get their panties in a wad.
Protesting has a place and I don’t think Frank said otherwise – he’s just making the true point that protesting alone usually isn’t enough to get the job done. If you think he’s wrong about that, explain why we still have troops in Iraq, 9 years after the biggest worldwide demonstrations in human history. I think we all expected that the coverage of said protests would show everyone that there was a lot of opposition to going to war. Well, guess what – the media just decided not to cover the protests! CNN on that day devoted about 20 seconds to coverage of the protests, opting instead to go with a “story” about “what reporters are doing to get in shape for covering the war.” Newspapers buried the stories on inside pages and focused on the very few incidents of arrests or property destruction. I myself attended a portion of the protest here in Little Rock and left well before it ended – because by that time I had heard all the shitty poetry, bad music, and calls to arms on other worthy – but completely unrelated – causes that I could take. I’m sure all the 60-somethings that attended were really energized to go out and fight for marijuana legalization!
The sad truth is that these days, a lot of protests represent just an opportunity for the protest organizers and their friends to get a little attention – some face time. So you end up being subjected to bands that aren’t good enough to get paying gigs and “poets” who can’t get published, and it ends up turning off a segment of people who otherwise were sympathetic to your presumptive cause. Worse yet, they rarely include any pointers on concrete actions for anyone to take after the protest ends. So what’s the point? If listening to shitty bands and bad poetry isn’t something I would go out to see otherwise, and if you aren’t going to present any plans for further action, what’s the point of holding a demonstration and why should I bother to show up? Frank is right about this.
the one that requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass anything? The one that is being flooded with UNLIMITED CORPORATE CASH? There will always be a place for protest on the left. We couldn’t have passed the Civil Rights Act or the New Deal without it. We would still be talking about the deficit nonstop without Occupy. I hate the drum circles as much as the next guy, but let’s give credit where credit is due.
I take your point, but I’ve been to Folsom and I’ve been to Mardi Gras, and I think you’re indulging in a little hyperbole. Folsom was pretty wild, at least the year I was there.
And the only time the people have been able to compete with the money boys is when they’ve been as close to completely united against them as possible, as in the New Deal years. Not an encouraging thing.
@Ben Wolf: The fact that you had to ignore what he really said and make up some entirely other thing he didn’t say in order not to be embarrassed by your outrage is a pretty good sign you stuck your foot into the shoe he held out and found it a disconcertingly good fit.
Frank did a Q/A from his office via reddit a few years ago and said much the same thing:
“Most of us have lives other than politics… people are only going to put a limited amount of energy into political activity. My fear is that people who made the considerable effort to come to Washington [for a gay rights march]… and stand there and listen to speeches all day believe they have done something important for a cause they deeply believe in. The problem is, for too many people, that will be it. ‘OK, I’ve done my part, I went to Washington.’ And it becomes a substitute for the kind of real activity that I believe we need.”
He’s wrong on HCR (disastrously so), but right on effective political activism. Resources and time are finite. If what you’re doing isn’t making a difference in any material sense, then you’re better off trying a different approach. He’s not, and I’m not, referring to direct action like civil disobedience that provokes a disproportionate response, but of the tepid solipsism common among professional protest people. Drum circles and “Nothing can stop the power of the people ’cause the power of the people won’t stop!” chants will not feed the homeless.
As for HCR, Frank has been campaigning for office himself or campaigning for someone else for the majority of his adult life, so the tepid narcissism of “HCR cost us too much” is not surprising. But he is right about the underlying political costs:
This is true not just of healthcare, but of every expansion of the welfare state ever attempted. For all the talk from conservatives about how America is the pinnacle of capitalist success, Americans do not buy into the core principle of capitalism itself: That wealth is not zero sum. If I have something its only because someone else doesn’t have it, and if they get it, then what I have must be diminished.
Frank’s error is assuming that this cost is insurmountable. The history of the American welfare state begs to differ. Yes, Americans do not want to lose an assumed privilege, but the welfare state itself constitutes an immense privilege for nearly every American. Get it done, and that same narcissism will be your ally.
In other words, they’ll like us when we win. So you gotta win.
Democrats dont stand a chance long-term if the media refuses to call bullshit bullshit. Period. The only check on congressional malfeasance is to vote ’em out, and people will only be inclined to do so if they’re educated on the shit their reps are doing/voting for. But absent a media willing to call balls and strikes, there’s no check on the insanity that Republicans will engage in.
Just today, Matt Lauer, out of the blue, felt the need to insert “Dems do it too!” into an otherwise factual discussion of Nugent’s bombthrowing. So both sides do it!
We do live In a retarded country though – letting people eat catfood while perishing the idea that our obscene defense spending could be at least reduced a little. There are days when I just shake my head at how lucky this nation has been …
@Satanicpanic: The current state of the Supreme Court puts to the lie that positive change can be effected within the political system. We need to face the fact that the far-right has ultimate veto power over anything the legislative and executive branches do, and then proceed from there. At least Occupy changed the language of the debate in ways that mainstream left-leaning groups never managed to do, so by that measure the movement has been a success.
I agree 100% with Barney. Always wished he was my rep, but I guess Capuano is a’ight.
Thanks for pointing out that quote. I think it applies to many aspects of life, not just political movements/causes.
I’ve been putting off reading the article, but will dive in now.
@beltane: I agree. It is disturbing to know that having 55.5% of the USSC and 41% of the Senate effectively shuts down the gov’t. Hell, the USSC can do it by themselves.
Barney Frank has been working hard, waging the good fight to protect hedge funds and private equity firms and carried interest and all the other water best carried by liberals. Goldman Sachs and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association think he is the toast of the town. Foreign currency traders luv them some Barney. so too do those using credit default swaps as tax shelters, having found great and good solace in Dodd-Frank.
a fearless progressive fighting the good fight for the 1%, that’s exactly the kind of hard work we have come to expect from this Democratic Party. Burnsie will be by soon to tell us how these tax shelters are the epitome of good fiscal policy, and making sure the uberwealthy pay little or no taxes is the best of all possible worlds.
Odie Hugh Manatee
Yeah, and Grover Norquist is an ally.
Be careful with the nuance, you might lose them. ;)
@beltane: The Supreme Court really did break what was left of the system. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t work within it, but let’s not put all our eggs in one basket.
And I get what Barney is saying- protests do attract all kinds of people who are there for the party. If they’re not disrupting, then fine, they’re driving up numbers, numbers are important. If they are just making trouble, then I support kicking them out. I don’t see what the big deal is.
Forum Transmitted Disease
Fuck, I just finished my ten-foot high “Free Mumia” bicycle-powered float. Now what am I supposed to do with it? Thanks a lot, Barney Frank.
@beltane: A big part of the conservative plan was to take control of the courts. Remember in the 60s and for most of the 70s we had a more liberal court system. Conservatives have been far more passionate about the courts than liberals have for a long time. How about a long term plan to recapture the courts? It’s not impossible.
Interesting thread, but I can’t really process this topic because I can’t get past my disgust at ole Barney for dissing on HCR.
I have zero sympathy — ZERO — for anybody who thinks getting coverage to 40 million people wasn’t something that needed to be done right the fuck now, regardless of the “cost.” Especially old fat fucks with lifetime guaranteed gold-plated coverage on the taxpayer dime.
I love how so many people are instantly dismissive of Frank’s opinion even as the country continues to march further and further to the right each year. Yeah guys, don’t even bother thinking about whether he has a point, you totally have all the answers figured out already.
@dr. bloor: Yes I suppose. But this model new england town where you live with its common square does not exist.
@EconWatcher: It’s possible I missed out on some of the fun parts of Folsom but in my experience it has far fewer drunk kids running around giving out blowjobs for beads. Then again there is the whole legal nudity thing in SF…
Um…how did you think the Court got so packed with right wing judges?
Why are you saying that it can’t work for us when it worked for them? (And don’t say money and corporations…the right wing put in the time to build organizations to front for corporations and there’s considerable left wing money as well).
Well he is correct about HCR. It did cost the pragmatists too much. Just like supporting the closing of torture prisons cost Obama too much, and just like it would cost PBO too much to support marriage equality.
I have to at least partly disagree with Barney Frank.
The first step in organizing IS to get the people who agree with you together and organized. If you don’t do that, you don’t have a base to move forward from. You don’t have a movement at all.
So that’s how you start: do stuff with the people who are your friends, who are on your side to begin with. If it’s fun stuff, then so much the better, but if you get pepper-sprayed, then at least you’re among friends and allies when it happens.
Now if you never move beyond doing stuff with the people you agree with, then you’ve got a problem: you’ve got a movement that’s going nowhere. But that’s still one step further along than not having a movement at all.
The Occupy movement really never got very organized to begin with. So assuming it’s still alive, they need to get more organized so they can move on to the next step, of coming up with a better-defined agenda and trying to convince others that it’s a good one.
But we’re talking about a movement that’s what, eight months old? Cut ’em some slack, Barney, fercryinoutloud.
The right wing has read Saul Alinsky, and is applying it.
Why are so many progressives being dismissive of what he’s saying?
I think the bolded part is why they’re not getting any slack.
The energy was there, but it looks like it’s dissipated now.
Huh? Nothing in matters like these is regardless of cost.
If you want to claim that the cost is far outweighed by the benefit, that’s fine.
I think that might be true if you replace “liberals” by “the Democratic Party establishment,” but I don’t think so otherwise.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@gwangung: Turns out some truths really are inconvenient.
I don’t have an skin in the game so to speak so I have never cared much about the LGBT movement. However, I will read Barney’s book about it. Unlike most, he’s an actual doer. Not some empty suit or talking head.
I don’t have any skin in the game so to speak so I have never cared much about the LGBT movement. However, I will read Barney’s book about it. Unlike most, he’s an actual doer. Not some empty suit or talking head.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): Barney already had health care he did not need it.
That’s one of the most important points here. “Winning” in politics involves solving massive coordination problems. There are two basic ways to do that: throw money at the problem, or use lots of labor in conjunction with good organization. (Of course, everyone uses both; the question is the mix.)
The success of the Right is based on their access to gobs of money, plus greater availability of preexisting social groupings (read: right-wing religious groups). But that doesn’t mean gobs of money is necessary to win. It just makes it a lot easier.
@gwangung: While it is possible to envision a left-wing movement that is as single-mindedly devoted to destroying conservatism as the conservative movement was in destroying liberalism, we should keep in mind that such a movement will not enjoy any support, or even any sympathy from any mainstream institutions. In order for such a movement to have any chance of success, the Left would have to have to act with a little more venom for all things Republican, including the people who vote for Republicans.
I’m with Mickey. I don’t have very much skin in the game, so to speak, so I have never cared much about Wall Street, derivative traders, synthetic collateralized debt swaps, or proprietary trading by the TBTF banks. However, I will read Barney’s book about it. Unlike most, he’s an actual doer. Not some empty suit or talking head. This is why his second largest campaign contributor was Goldman. Barney is a doer.
i really respect barney frank, but the above quote is boilerplate, political insider bullshit. nothing gets done in washington without either copious amounts of money or an enormous grass-roots push. when we wait for politicians to act in our interest, or spend our time doing nothing more than phone-banking, nothing gets done. those heroes on the streets for the occupy movement are the best shot we have at fixing a dying system of democracy. dodd-frank, if anyone needs reminding, is little more than an empty rhetorical exercise in political masturbation.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@low-tech cyclist: I was in San Francisco this weekend. They were there. All 10-12 of them.
I think it’s safe to say that Occupy has run its course.
Goddamn but I am getting frustrated with my fellow libs, who have the attention span of a kitten, a suicidal unwillingness to fight dirty, and an pathological inability to plan for the long term.
You mean the liberals who told us there is absolutely no difference between Clinton/Dole, Gore/Bush, Bush/Obama?
Um, not to trigger a flame war, but don’t you need both (in all interpretations)?
You need the cold political calculators willing to cut the deals, but you also need the rabble-rousers in the street to make the deal seem the lesser of two evils for those who would prefer the status quo.
You need those willing to find common ground, but you need the obstinate lefties to keep them honest and prevent the former from giving away the farm.
You need the shrewd arguers who can assauge to moderate fears, but you also need the kids on the front lines braving the police in order to start the debate.
You need slow buildup of raw political power at every level to get the lawmakers and you need fast protests that resist incorporation in order to get the ideas.
If you silence the protests and just focus on the political power, you get the current problem with the Democratic party. If you let the political fester and rot, while you give up on the system, you get the current problem where kids give up on the system before they start or think that libertarianism is anything other than a Ferengi sales tactic.
And if that seems too chaotic, well, welcome to the harsh reality of being a liberal.
@Steve: The country isn’t moving farther to the right. The polticians and the system they inhabit is.
If you read the whole interview, which is very good, you will see Frank also talks about Gay Pride parades and Stonewall, and says those were important and useful, because it brought the issues of gay rights attention, but now Gay Pride Day is just for fun, and the real work for gay rights is the boring stuff. I think that’s probably correct. The Occupy movement was all well and good, but it’s message was little disorganized, and I’m still not sure what the point of it was.
If you want to mount ad hominem attacks, go ahead. I’ve never myself said there’s no difference between the parties. But it’s a fact that the Dem Party has not made court appointments a priority, either under Clinton or under Obama, or in terms of resisting far right appointments by Republicans.
Google says half the Senate Dems voted to confirm Roberts. That’s pathetic.
Yeah, don’t see why this isn’t obvious. The real question is how much to invest in each.
@Cerberus: Of course, but some peoples’ aversion to stinky hippies overcomes their good sense.
I already knew this, but Jason Zengerle’s kind of a dipshit.
Combine it with wall-to-wall coverage on Fox News 3 years ago, an organized campaign by well funded right-wing agitprop groups, and a bad economy and you have a wave election in 2010 that strips away Democratic gains in the previous 2008 wave election.
If it was just folks in funny hats, nothing much would’ve come out of the rebranding effort.
To really make change you need (1) civil protest, (2) successful legal challenges to bad laws, and (3) the ability to influence legislatures.
Just launching a protest won’t change anything. It takes more work.
I think Barney Frank thinks that visible activism has its place, and it’s very useful to get stuff started, but then it has to be channeled. And I’d agree with him. Look at the Tea Party, which has been very successful in moving beyond the ‘I’m pissed off and angry at the Kenyan usurper’ stage and into the getting their people to stand as candidates, and eventually into Congress and state legislatures.
Now, it’s easier for them because in reality the Tea Party was already linked pretty closely with the Republicans from the get-go, and they’re being funded big time by a lot of industrialists. But Occupy has never even thought about taking the next step, nor has it really moved beyond lots of different, disparate protest movements in various cities around the world. It doesn’t have a spokesman, or spokesmen and women, or any kind of organisation, or anything like a set of central demands. Nothing except a name and an ethos. The liberal mindset will always rail against the necessities of organisation and consensus, rather than the authoritarian mindset which is happy to fall in line. But it’s necessary to win.
Barney is right i the sense that in the end it all comes down to who gets elected to the lawmaking bodies and that means getting out the vote. If protests, events, petitions, strikes, boycotts, marches, etc don’t translate into people showing up at the ballot box then it is all for nought. And the passing of legislation is work,hard work, hard boring work.
Bu that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for all that public activity. And Saul ALinsky said that protest events shouild be fun. The purpose of a public protest event has to be to commuicate to and persuade the people who aren’t there. Otherwise the protest is just an act of public self-indulgence.
The Civil Rights movement protests were effective at influencing public opinion becuase the protesters were clearly the brave victims of brutality. They gave the Jim Crow supporters the opportunity to look bad on TV and that made them look good. They had the moral high ground and it showed on TV to all the people who didn’t know about or hadn’t thought much about race relations.
The Viet nam protests,on the other hand, were full of self-righteousness and self aggrandizement and were not effective at increasing opposition to the war. The protesters just marginalized themselves with behavior that was intended to reinforce their since of moral superiority and not intended to communicate with the people who weren’t at the protests.
I was at a lot of those anti-war protests, BTW. There was too much su vs them and “them” was everyone not at the protest. That just does not work as a political tactic.
Like a lot of middle- and upper-class white cis gay men, Frank underestimates the political significance of being able to feel good. Coming out may not be a big deal in many university owns and enclaves of the top 10-25%, but trans women are still out here, and we get murdered at eight times the national average rate. Poor people all across the LGBT spectrum(s) face genuine dangers to their continued life and safety as well as to their social/economic prospects, because homophobia and related prejudices haven’t gone away.
The same kind is true for lots of other marginalized people. A central reality of American life is that most of our governing elite wants us to feel bad except with relief they dole out on their terms. We are purposefully disconnected from opportunities to feel good about anything more meaningful than a sporting event or concert, unless it involves hating and wishing bad things for people even worse off than us.
Frank doesn’t need that kind of affirmation because he’s got it made. It’s true that there’s a significant fraction of the country that would like to see him miserable if not dead, but they won’t get their wish. He can live in safety and comfort with the person he loves, doing work he’s chosen and finds fulfilling. But not all those things are true for all of us. For some of us none of them are true. We really need the opportunities to gather with people prepared to like us, not harm us, and to say outside our closets and computer cubbies, “This is who and what I am.”
This isn’t just a precursor to politics. It is politics. It’s about establishing a sense of individual sense and community affiliation in defiance of the wishes of many people with more money, power, and hatred than ourselves. At the LGBT events I go to, there’s pretty much always chances to get involved then and there – to provide some of the money no corporate power will ever give us, to join in staffing, to help plan future events, to find out what’s up and how we can help.
Of course I can understand Frank’s desire to downplay that kind of thing, since it often includes a dose of pressuring his own office on matters important to the rest of the LGBT world that he prefers not to make a fuss over. It’s always hard – certainly for me, and I don’t expect anyone to be better at it than I’m willing to force myself to be – to go from “this is, in a general way, important” to “this is important enough to take some effort even though it makes me uncomfortable”.
No, it’s a fact that a shit ton of Obama appointments have been stalled by the Senate republicans.
As ever, your innate cluelessness glares through your insufferable smartassery.
I have lost all patience with people who focus on gay rights issues.
Even Barney Frank? You mean he doesn’t understand?
Of course we can win gay rights issues! Because.it.doesn’t.cost.the.oligarchs.anything.
It’s about the money, and every time we take our eyes off the ball, we accept a society that keeps 1/3 of our children in actual poverty.
Emperor of Ice Cream
@Jeff Boatright: Hear hear! It’s about money … on the right, the monied interests are aligned with the political interests. On the left, not so much. That is why you get organizations on the right such as the Club for Growth that focus on their missions like laser beams … the big money people that fund them get out of their way and say “here is a big pot of money …do with it what you will to make my taxes stay low.” On the left (and I’ve been working with left leaning orgs for 20+ plus years) the donors are not motivated by their self-interest. Thus, progressive organizations swing from issue to issue to chase their funders. There are no big $$ on the true left…. and no, Soros doesn’t qualify either. Sorry, there is just not a level playing field. Barney knows this, but he also likes to tweak the hippies too. It’s everyone in DC’s favorite game….
@Wonkie: Been waiting for someone to bring this up:
As one of those protesters, I agree. Part of the problem came when the professional Lefties hustled their way into the vanguard of the incoherent discontent & tried to parlay it into a movement for radical political change on all fronts–only they couldn’t agree with each other on what to change & how & when to change it & had neither the skill nor the taste for compromise. For months I’d steam silently in the Baltimore Moratorium planning meetings as the Maoists & Labor Committeeites & everyone else burned their energies fighting over minuscule & obscure points of theory, each insisting that every point of their N-point program had to be adopted or they’d
go into a poutwalk out.
FTR it was not the antiwar Left that ended the (US armed forces’ active participation in the) war–it was the solid citizens of the American upper middle class. Once the kids of those movers & shakers (& not just those of the poor & the working class) began to come home in hermetically-sealed boxes–with Walter Cronkite letting them know how little was gained by their sacrifice–it was “game over”. Nixon’s solution was to pull US troops out of harm’s way as quickly as possible while doubling down on airstrikes (which left relatively few airmen at risk). And the antiwar protests dried up like an Australian river in high summer. Because very few US citizens gave a rat’s arse how many Vietnamese got killed by our bombs & shells & defoliants so long as their kids & their friends’ kids were safe. And even fewer gave a rodent’s rectum for the other policies the professional Lefties hoped to sneak in under the tie-dyes & beads of the movement.
I marched in many of those demos & then busted my tail for McGovern in 1972. A lot of my friends had their hearts broken on Election Night (I remember having each arm around a young woman bawling her eyes out & trying like hell not to start myself). But a bunch of us from the campaign decided that it wasn’t going to be over if we had any say about it. We organized ourselves into a political club, & in just two years we had a significant impact, helping to break the old Democratic Party machine’s generation-long stranglehold on local offices. Four years later we helped defeat the local party boss’s hand-picked & much better known successor with one of our own. (By my own reckoning, I walked–walked–the entire legislative district at least twice to knock on doors.) But we were young & as Barney Frank notes, there were other priorities–careers to pursue, families to start–& we couldn’t sustain the energy or momentum into the Reagan years…
And from that experience I maintain that Barney Frank and Egypt Steve are correct. Every election season on the first day of campaigning I’d get sick to my stomach at all the awful things I might face…then I’d grit my teeth & knock on that first door…& while it was never as bad as I’d feared, the urge to turn away was always there to be fought. But in the end what won those elections was shoe leather. (Or hoarse voices. Making campaign calls in 2006, one woman screamed Oh no not another political call! & I replied, Hey, at least with the Democrats you get a real live person to yell at! & a couple of minutes later we had another vote for the O’Malley/Brown ticket…)
ETA: Moderation in the pursuit of some imaginary linguistic offense is no virtue. Whud I say, wrong?!?!? FYWP!
Not surprising that a long-time politician would feel this way, that the technocratic elite have graciously bestowed these crumbs of justice on the rubes thanks to the tireless work of people like Barney Frank. In fact, anybody with a microgram of awareness of history knows that it is not an either-or proposition, that both idealism and insider slogging have played parts in any social advancement.
Resolved: false dichotomies impede understanding. See also 1776, MLK, Stonewall, Arab Spring, etc.
@Jeff Boatright: Yes, and it’s why Barney could get his civil rights expanded, but he lost on every budget and banking issue. And somehow he thinks he won something, in the midst of a 40 year losing streak that he participated in/presided over? Fuck him.
@beltane: subtle venom.
has anyone here (except me) ever actual participated in an OWS protest?
@James Gary: He talks about the Stonewall Riots in the interview. I don’t think he classes them as a feel-good opportunity. I believe his point is that after the Rally, the March, the chance to wave the banner and wear the t-shirt, comes the hard work of keeping up the pressure, framing the arguments, filing the lawsuits, raising the funds, getting the opinion pieces in the press, talking to legislators, getting items on the ballot, getting out the vote and so on and so on and so on.
Let’s consider an example: Same-sex marriage is legal in six states (eight if the legislation in Maryland and Washington state makes it past the voters this Novemeber) because of a lot of hard work, starting in the 1970s and continuing to this day. The fact that someone showed up in drag at a Pride Day parade last year was not a major factor in this change. That person may have had a great time there, and felt it was a positive experience in their life, but it didn’t play much part in these outcomes.
Making sure the voters in Maryland and Washington state uphold the marriage legislation that’s been passed in those states requires more than that, and a lot of the work that will be needed may be a dreary slog.
Someone elsewhere described Frank’s remarks as dreary Calvinism, and that may be why a lot of the crap the Right puts out sticks: they are prepared to deal with Not Having a Good Time if it gets them what they want. Being a relentless advocate for a cause requires a lot of tiresome, tedious work.
There’s a reason for the saying “keep your eyes on the prize”; it’s an important reminder of what’s at stake once the chance for a commemorative t-shirt is over and done.
@Hidden Heart: Thank you for the thoughtful commentary. I wish I did not largely agree with
but it does seem to explain much about modern America: from the War on Drugs, to the obsession with buying things instead of living life, to creeping criminalization, to asserting military force as a first resort, to gun-nuttery and stand-your-ground laws.
It’s a hard slog to protect what liberty we have, let alone to expand it, but it’s a fight worth fighting. Whoever said “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” was right on the money.
@fidelio: And a lot of that dreary work is being done by people who got their start in activism by coming out at gay pride events and the like, and then by helping run them, and then by realizing they wanted to do more…but who remain active with the social stuff too. There’s no dichotomy here at all.
Meanwhile, if Mr. Frank has any thoughts about how to get a few zealous billionaires on our side, a bunch of us are all ears. One of the reasons it’s hard to fund long-term grassroots efforts is, of all things, declining real incomes for a whole lot of us. (It’s one more reason social occasions matter. Being depressed about our individual situations is, honestly, a very sensible response for way too many people. Representatives aren’t worse off overall than they were a generation ago, but lots of us are. If he could help get us some of that lost ground back, probably more of us would be glad to plow more time and energy as well as money into the good work of making an America that actually works for everybody.
In the meantime maybe he could stop blaming us for living in the society he didn’t help stop coming into being.
@Tonal Crow: Thanks back to ya.
My parents raised us to believe well of people until others prove they don’t deserve it. I try to live by that still, and I still feel weird believing that a lot of the top 1% actually do enjoy others’ failure, or need it, along with their own success, to feel most fully triumphant. I have a hard time imagining what it’d be like to see the world that way, since I was raised with old-fashioned Democratic ideals of shared prosperity – my parents grew up in the Depression, and I think they had (and have) some damn good ideas in that direction.
But I also believe in not ignoring evidence, and a lot of modern politics doesn’t make sense without an element of sadism factored in.
Is this the same smartest guy in the room who chaired the House Banking Cmte prior to ’08? And Im supposed to give a shit what he thinks about Occupy why?
Thank you Barney Frank and Balloon Juice. I’m not sure how this applies to Occupy, but I have found that Frank’s comments apply to the local DFAs, PDAs and Moveon groups. They send out emails to their friends, have events and parties with their friends, in DFA’s case, canvass areas where their friends live. I went to one canvass for a state rep candidate and was told to only go to houses where their 1s and 2s lived. Then, they wonder why the candidates they support don’t win and comfort themselves by saying that that at least changed the conversation. They don’t even get that they didn’t change the conversation because they only talked with their friends and supporters.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): I dispute that there was much hard work on health care reform. The so-called reform groups like HCAN and OFA and Moveon all backed down immediately to support a plan that was easily attacked because it had no merit in and of itself–just a complex and expensive scheme to keep insurance companies in the money, and they fought single payer advocates far harder and more often than the fought the anti-reform Republicans and conservative Democrats.
@Ben Wolf: What Ben said. Jesus.
imagine the firestorm if anyone else had said this. This thread would easily be ablaze with 750 scalding comments. but it’s only gay ole barney, so he gets a pass. it’s the left version of IOKIYAR.