The Limits of Ideology

John Fetterman says he's not a progressive.

“John Fetterman” by Governor Tom Wolf is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Memeorandum points me to NYT columnist Michelle Goldberg‘s “What’s Driving Former Progressives to the Right?” and Hot Air’s John Sexton‘s “Progressives Worry About So Many Former Comrades Drifting to the Right,” both of which offer competing explanations for a phenomenon I’m highly skeptical exists outside of a handful of famous people.*

But those pieces framed my reading of NBC‘s report, “‘I’m not a progressive’: Fetterman breaks with the left, showing a maverick side.”

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., is breaking with progressives on hot-button issues with his fiery support for Israel and calls for Democrats to engage on tougher immigration laws, disappointing some on the left as he shows an independent streak.

He’s also continually scolding Democrats for not pushing Sen. Bob Menendez out of office after he was indicted on federal charges of taking bribes and acting as a foreign agent for Egypt, which the New Jersey Democrat denies.

In the 2022 campaign, Fetterman’s ties to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., prompted GOP opponent Mehmet Oz to tell voters he’d be a mere “sidekick” for the democratic socialist. But Fetterman’s recent stances point to an unorthodox brand of blue-collar liberalism, with a dash of outsider populism, in a purple state that is expected to be hotly contested again in the 2024 elections.

In an interview, the first-term Pennsylvania Democrat said his critics shouldn’t be surprised.

“I’m not a progressive,” Fetterman told NBC News. “I just think I’m a Democrat that is very committed to choice and other things. But with Israel, I’m going to be on the right side of that. And immigration is something near and dear to me, and I think we do have to effectively address it as well.”

Fetterman insisted he can be pro-immigration while also favoring policies to restrict the flow of migration to manageable levels, disagreeing with progressives who oppose new limits on asylum and bash some of the ideas in the negotiations as cruel.

“It’s a reasonable conversation — until somebody can say there’s an explanation on what we can do when 270,000 people are being encountered on the border, not including the ones, of course, that we don’t know about,” he said. “To put that in reference, that is essentially the size of Pittsburgh, the second-largest city in Pennsylvania.”

The senator added that while it’s “not ideal to have this conversation” about asylum and parole policy in connection with an aid package for Israel and Ukraine, “it’s still one that we should have,” given that Republicans have made it an essential condition to advance the supplemental bill.

“Progressives better do that because we can’t leave Israel — we can’t sell them out, and we can’t sell Ukraine out, and we have to deliver on this,” Fetterman said. “I just would very much like to get a deal to deliver this critical aid.”


“People liked Fetterman because of his populist outsiderness and empathy toward all kinds of people,” said Waleed Shahid, a progressive organizer who has rallied criticism of U.S. support for Israel as the conflict escalates. “But his extreme jingoistic support of this war has made many people feel that he holds a hierarchy of human value where Israeli lives are simply more important to him than Palestinians.”

Some Republicans are shocked — in a positive way.

“For a lot of Republicans, it’s been a pleasant surprise,” said Christopher Nicholas, a longtime GOP strategist based in Pennsylvania, referring to Fetterman’s stances on Israel, border policy and Menendez. “Here is a freshman taking some strong stances. … I just see someone who’s ‘Well, that’s what I think, and I say what I think.’”

Nicholas said he’s particularly struck by the fact that Fetterman is out front in refusing to let up on Menendez.

“I know how clubby the Senate is, having worked for Arlen Specter for 18 years. So I get it,” Nicholas said. “But I find it perplexing that you haven’t had a lot of other Democratic members of the Senate saying it. Perhaps that’s because he’s a freshman and he hasn’t been totally inculcated into the ‘Here in the Senate we do things differently’ line of thinking.”

Fetterman chief of staff Adam Jentleson said the senator has “always had” the policy positions he’s espousing today, even though Republicans wanted to paint him as a socialist in 2022 and “some folks on the left are pretending” he has since changed his beliefs.

“He’s just being consistent,” Jentleson said. “He spent the entire campaign telling people he wasn’t a down-the-line lefty.”

Fetterman, like most normal** people, simply isn’t an ideologue. While I find him quirky and annoying, he seems like a decent guy who grew up well-off but developed a strong affinity for the working class. He has all sorts of ideas about the world, shaped by his experiences, but they don’t form a coherent worldview that’s easily labeled.

He sees Israel as the side of right in the current conflict and therefore supports them. He sees Menendez (like the expelled George Santos) as unfit to serve in Congress, period. And he’s pugnacious enough not to overly care what his colleagues think about him.

To the extent people are moving to the right more than to the left—and, again, I’m not sure there’s a lot of empirical evidence for that—I suspect it’s a function of the current Democratic Party being more ideologically coherent than the current Republican Party (very much a reversal of the recent norm).

And I think Goldberg is onto something here:

[I]n much of the Western world, the right has been so much better than the left at harnessing hatred of the status quo.

Part of the answer is probably that the culture of the left is simply less welcoming, especially to the politically unsure, than the right.


But I think there’s a deeper problem, which stems from a crisis of faith in the possibility of progress. Liberals and leftists have lots of excellent policy ideas but rarely articulate a plausible vision of the future.


It’s easy to see what various parts of the left want to dismantle — capitalism, the carceral state, heteropatriarchy, the nuclear family — and much harder to find a realistic conception of what comes next.


The right has an advantage in appealing to dislocated and atomized people: It doesn’t have to provide a compelling view of the future. All it needs is a romantic conception of the past, to which it can offer the false promise of return. When people are scared and full of despair, “let’s go back to the way things were” is a potent message, especially for those with memories of happier times.

As Democrats coalesce to appeal to the college-educated and adopt the language and attitudes of the academy, it’s natural that they’ll alienate former members. Working-class whites have most famously shifted their allegiance but we’ve also seen some movement among working-class Black and Hispanic voters. Progressive policies on everything from race to immigration to LGBTQ issues, especially when articulated in a maximal way, are naturally going to alienate some factions.

But, of course, this realignment works both ways. There are people like myself who were longtime Republicans who have been alienated by the ascendance of the Tea Party and, especially, the MAGA wing.

The reason we pay so much more attention to the former than the latter is twofold. First, the preponderance of the elite media is liberal and progressive, so they columnist class is naturally more interested in why people who used to be on their side are drifting away. Second, and more importantly, the strange way we elect our representatives—and particularly the President—has made the former more important.

Indeed, I can pretty easily see a world in which Fetterman is a Republican and, certainly, in which the kind of people who are drawn to Fetterman would vote for Donald Trump over a Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. Most folks aren’t ideological, voting instead on some combination of habit, tribal loyalty, and personality assessments. The same people who admire Fetterman’s pugnacity and would prefer having a beer with him than Mehmet Oz are likely to prefer Trump.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum shares my skepticism of the underlying premise:

In fact, according to two reliable pollsters the number of people who identify as liberals has gone up over the past two decades:

Conservative ID, by contrast, has stayed steady this entire time.

Nonetheless, he has an interesting explanation for the phenomenon, notwithstanding its non-existence:

The plain fact is that being a liberal is hard. You have to care about poor people and homeless people and Palestinians and trans people and the environment and Black people and the disabled and Hispanics and the neurodivergent and fast food workers and animals and undocumented immigrants and indigenous people and plastic straws and public transit and mass incarceration and DEI and white privilege and child workers and wage theft and lead pipes and educational equality and systemic racism and bullying and climate change and screen time and maternal mortality and social justice and fat phobia and antisemitic tropes and voter suppression and bank fees and racial stereotyping and income inequality and safe spaces and unconscious bias and football concussions and Black Lives Matter and eugenics and atoning for the past and food deserts and gender affirming care and neoliberalism and health equity and flying and the unbanked and restorative justice and toxic masculinity and biodiversity and colonialism and intersectionality and the global south and malaria and sexual harassment and microaggressions and dolphin-safe tuna and power relations and factory farming and stereotype threat and Davos and cultural appropriation and habitat loss and #OscarsSoWhite and gender identity and pronouns and whale hunting and police brutality and prosecutorial misconduct and Twitter and ableism and deeply problematic and heteronormativity and colony collapse and forever chemicals and body shaming and white saviors and mansplaining and gentrification and hate speech and plastic water bottles and the Bechdel test.

It’s pretty exhausting caring about all this stuff all the time, and I’m not even counting issues that everyone cares about, like abortion or gun control. If you get overloaded by it all—and especially if you find some of these items sort of ridiculous to begin with—it’s pretty easy to drift right, even if you don’t go full MAGA.

He’s not wrong. More to the point: not caring about even a few of those can get you branded apostate.

*In most cases, they’re people in advanced middle age whose views on social issues simply haven’t evolved since their younger days, making them out of step with younger progressives.

**My wife often notes that I define “normal” with my own experience as the center. In this case, though, I’m aware that, like most OTB readers, I’m decidedly abnormal in spending so much time analyzing politics and public policy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chip Daniels says:

    Its better to think of liberals such as Biden representing the status quo and conservatives like Trump representing a revolutionary faction.

    Conservatives often talk about a “long march through the institutions” where liberalism has gained control of academia, corporations, the military, the government and popular culture.
    They see themselves as upholding a True America, but one which is surrounded, outnumbered and facing existential threat.

    The revolutionaries reject the legitimacy of the status quo. In the Trumpist view, Biden and all he represents are not fellow Americans with whom they need to bargain and compromise with, but internal enemies who must be crushed.

    This is why liberalism seems so diffuse and lacking a vision because it is essentially just “the status quo with some minor reforms”.

  2. Modulo Myself says:

    As Democrats coalesce to appeal to the college-educated and adopt the language and attitudes of the academy, it’s natural that they’ll alienate former members.

    Most college-educated people do not use the language and attitudes of the academy. They aren’t talking about settler-colonialism or intersectionality. They’re normal people–just happy to have families and friends and not to be too much of a jerk or disconnected from the world. This might even involve therapy or counseling. It might involve self-work and thinking rather than the cliches of the past.

    And that’s why democrats have elected to double-down on the past as well, which is why we have Biden. Nobody wants to say that college-education might provide you with emotional abilities and depths that are the real source of alienation happening here. It implies that there’s something wrong with actaul American values. If you need education to overcome what you were given, that’s a bad thing.
    Fetterman is just looking at political realities and who is funding him, and money is the most status quo thing around.

  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Well clutch my pearls, Fetterman doesn’t recite the progressive catechism. HERETIC primary him.

    Sigh, Congress needs more more members on both sides of the aisle that have varied views and are interested in forging compromises that move America forward.

    At Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan has commentary on Goldberg’s column.

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The guy bragged about how his wife was an undocumented immigrant and how great that was. He’s a hypocrite. I can’t blame a politician for using politics to turn a vice into a virtue, but there’s no reason to be fooled by it.

  5. steve says:

    Letterman is sort of like the new PA governor and maybe even the new Philly mayor. They are acknowledging and making some attempt to address the concerns of the working class. Both he, Shapiro and the new mayor have acknowledged that crime is an issue and claim they want to address it. While crime has been overblown by the right it has been an issue in Philly. There was an increase nationally. Even if it is coming back down the concerns linger. Shapiro has made it a point to actually visit and offer support to stores with Jewish owners that have had pro-Palestinian groups demonstrate outside, likely trying to intimidate them.

    The result is that they likely win elections. They can still carry out the more liberal part of their agenda. While this will be described as moving to the right I would see it as paying attention to the stuff they should have been all along.


  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Shapiro has made it a point to actually visit and offer support to stores with Jewish owners that have had pro-Palestinian groups demonstrate outside, likely trying to intimidate them.

    You mean the place that allegedly fired 2 employees for wearing Palestine flag pins? This what the left calls intersectionality. If you’re working-class you don’t get free speech if it involves supporting Palestinian rights.

    I can’t blame politicians for jumping on this instead of taking up the rights of hourly employees to wear flag pins. They are no consequences. It’s like supporting funding the police. In no known universe do the police have to prevent crime or produce results. They just have to blame the left and academics.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    Progressivism is dying. The cause of death has been determined to be suicide.

    I support all the essential elements of the progressive wish list. I’m pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-trans. I believe that the rich should pay more in taxes – and again, I’ll note, I’m talking my money not some faceless, ‘the rich.’ I believe we need to transition to a greener society or face much higher costs down the road. I supported Black civil rights all the way back at a time and in a place where it was physically dangerous to do so. And it’s not just lip service, I spend in support of candidates, in legislative races as well as national ones.

    I’ve also at the professional level supported progressive causes. No rational person reading through my literary oeuvre (yes, I do throw up in my mouth a little at that term) could come away with any doubt as to where I stand, which explains why my various social media followers skew gay and trans. I’ve gotten many, many letters telling me that my (and my wife’s) work gave hope to despairing and even suicidal gay and trans kids. Hell, I’ve been told I/we inadvertently helped to create the ‘furry’ phenomenon.

    And since about 2015 progressives have done everything they can to alienate me and expel me.

    Our own @DK calls me a racist because I made a crack about Argentinians. (Yes, I confess, I have an undying hatred of Argentinians. It’s the tango. I hate tango.) I get a pile-on any time I warn that progressives are alienating people by dint of their humorlessness, their inflexibility, their insufferable, superficial and irrelevant obsessions with neologism and euphemism.

    I deliberately threw myself on various progressive hand grenades in kidlit. I told them that trying to mulch books was a bad idea, and not just a bad idea when conservatives did it. Canceled for that. I told them the idea that White writers could not write POC characters was taking a position that Blacks were fundamentally alien, an opinion shared by plantation owners in Georgia in 1860. That they were re-segregating literature. Canceled. Told them sensitivity readers and trigger warnings were idiotic and a structure that could easily be exploited by conservatives. Canceled. And of course I was canceled for objecting to cancel culture generally.

    I’ve never had so many people try so hard to label me a heretic, and expel me from decent society.

    Dear progressives: if I’m the problem, you’re fucked. Pull out a ruler. 12 inches. Over by the one inch line, that’s MAGA. I’m over around the 10 inch line. Not 12, not 11, but a solid, reliable ten. If that’s where you’re drawing the heresy line, do the fucking math.

    Our job as Democrats, as liberals and progressives, is to treat the sick, house the homeless, feed the hungry, defend those who cannot defend themselves, to stand up for freedom of speech, to adopt an attitude of tolerance, and we cannot do that with nothing but the tiny number that pass all the tests of the purity police.

    Now we have trans rights being rolled back, abortion rights lost, book banning, rewrites of racial history, and still progressives will leap to tell me how wrong I am and how, like the Black Knight, ’tis all just flesh wounds.

  8. EddieInCA says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You mean the place that allegedly fired 2 employees for wearing Palestine flag pins?

    A private employer has the right to expect employees to represent the company as the owner sees fit. Period. Full stop. There is no right to employment regardless of behavior.

    I doubt you’d say that a Jewish business owner should be forced to keep employees who want to wear Nazi pins. Or a black business owner should be forced to keep employees who want to wear a KKK pin.

    This exactly the point Drum is making. And why some Progressives continue to drive even allies away.

  9. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I would say I’m a 9.5, only because I disagree with much of the left on border policies (and, remember, I’m the child of Dominican immigrants who emigrated legally in the late 1950’s.) But the truth is that even as a 9.5, I’d probably never vote for a Republican if the Dem is “a normie”. I’d have a hard time voting for an RFK or Williamson, but would even vote for them over a Cruz, Rubio, or most other GOP candidates.

  10. SenyorDave says:

    @EddieInCA: Wow, being pro-Palestinian is like being in the klan or being a nazi. That comparison is a real trifecta, offensive, stupid and asinine all in one neat package. But it does pale in comparison to past comments about wiping out Gaza and the West Bank. And if you are thinking, geez, you make one comment supporting genocide and people never forget, well you’re right.

  11. gVOR10 says:

    Re Drum, which your update just beat me to, a couple days ago I quoted Shaw,

    Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

    I would add that I think some of the high profile defections are marketing driven. Several years ago NYT was forced to fire Bill Kristol for lying beyond even their rather large tolerance. (“Fact check an opinion column? What is this “fact check” thing you’re referring to?”) They did a long diligent search and finally settled for hiring Ross Douthat for the affirmative action conservative pundit slot. And to be fair, Douthat probably was the best conservative writer they could find. I used to read Taibbi, but he seemed to be running dry. There’s a glut of honest, hard working, insightful writes on the left. If I look at Substack there are a raft of liberal writers I’d like to follow. Way more than, even as a retiree, I have time for. I came here ten or twenty years ago looking for good, honest conservative writing. I’m still looking.

    I think it’s like God rock. They’d rather be doing million dollar rock tours, but the pyramid is too high and steep, and they can make a living with God rock. For a skilled writer, the competition is a lot easier on the Right.

  12. Modulo Myself says:


    Yeah, and people have the right to protest what they see as bigotry without causing hysterical meltdowns. And they have the right to say the Palestinian flag does not equal a swastika.

    As as far as allies go– who are you allied with here if you think a Palestinian flag equals a swastika? Personally, I find moral hysteria alienating as hell, but that’s just me.

  13. EddieInCA says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Where is the line for you? I asked two hypothetical questions. Why don’t you answer them?

    Can a Jewish employer be expected to keep an employee who wears a Nazi pin?
    Can a black employer be expected to keep an employee who wears a KKK pin?
    They’re not hard questions.

    If the answer is no, then I’m trying to figure out where the line is for you.

    If the answer is yes, at least you’re consistent. But my guess is that you’re not consistent because….

  14. Modulo Myself says:

    And like I said about no consequences…right now, Biden is losing in the polls against a very unpopular ex-president and a ceasefire has majority support. Yet if he loses the election, everyone responsible for talking about progressives being out of touch is going to get cushy fake jobs at Brookings or some place and deals to write bad books blaming the intolerant left for their own obvious errors, and it will repeated ad infinitum by the idiots here.

  15. gVOR10 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s the tango. I hate tango.

    Do you know Astor Piazzola.

  16. Brainster says:

    Drum’s graphic and Goldberg’s lament are not necessarily incompatible. Today’s young people are more liberal than in the past (polling indicates that), but at the same time, as people age they generally become more conservative (as they have a greater stake in the status quo).

    Mark Shields used to say that there were two kinds of politicians; those who were looking for converts and those who are looking for heretics. Up until recently I would have said that the GOP was in the former position and the Democrats in the latter. These days both parties might as well be the Spanish Inquisition.

  17. Modulo Myself says:


    Obviously there are lines which are crossed. But the lines are vague. With jobs, we have entire legal field dedicated to figuring out what is and isn’t just. That’s because the lines are vague. So yes, certain things cross the line. But no one knows where the line is beyond extreme hypotheticals.

    More importantly, you have the absolute right to protest. If you get fired for telling a big-shot patron of a restaurant to go fuck himself, you and your friends can show up and protest the next day. It just isn’t as sympathetic as being fired for wearing a Palestinian flag, and that’s why all the stories had to lie about it and pretend they were protesting the restaurant because it was owned by Jewish people.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    No, the lines are not vague because as @EddieinCA pointed out to begin with, the issue is that employers have the right to tell employees they can’t wear things – anything – that doesn’t conform to the job’s requirements.

    As for Gaza, have you seen The Bridge On The River Kwai? The POW British colonel loses the plot and actually begins to want to finish a bridge for the Japanese. Today progressives are furiously calling for the elimination of the only country in the ME where an Arab can vote. The only country in the ME where anyone can vote. The only country that protects women’s rights and gay rights. You are that colonel. You have lost the plot, blinded by your own moral posturing.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Um, no. Unless they were banning all pins and jewelry, you can’t arbitrarily tell an employee they can’t wear a certain thing. I.e, you can’t fire a person for wearing a crucifix necklace if you allow necklaces to be worn. There are actual laws about this. If you want to keep your employees crucifix-free, you would institute a dress code banning all jewelry etcetera. Regardless, people have the right to protest especially if you create a dress code to target behaviors.

    You are that colonel. You have lost the plot, blinded by your own moral posturing.

    This is because I hate everybody and everything: women, gays, democracy, Jewish people.

  20. CSK says:

    I saw a very brief clip of the speech Melania delivered at the citizenship ceremony yesterday. The speech described the U.S.A. as “resilient,” only Madame Trump pronounced it “ree-ZI-lent.”

  21. Modulo Myself says:

    Overall, I think it’s hilarious to paint yourself as a real liberal and then be like employers get to fire whomever they want, especially if the employees are rebelling, and nobody gets to protest because employers are kings amongst men.

    You both are simply moderate Republicans, that’s all.

  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You both are simply moderate Republicans, that’s all.

    Thanks for proving my point.

    Cast out the heretic! Idiot.

    ETA: Answer the question about swastika pins. By your logic any employer who allows a ‘have a nice day’ pin would have to allow a swastika pin. I’ll say it again: idiot.

  23. CSK says:


    Oh, shit. I meant to put this in the open forum. Sorry for buggering up the thread.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Hmmm… From reading this thread, I get the impression that a lot of us are not really as liberal as we imagine we are.

  25. EddieInCA says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You both are simply moderate Republicans, that’s all.

    Right. A moderate Republican who hasn’t voted for ANY GOP candidate since 1988.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Hmmm… From reading this thread, I get the impression that a lot of us are not really as liberal as we imagine we are.

    That’s the point. To some progressives NO ONE is pure enough. I can agree with Modulo on 85% of issues, but because we don’t agree on on the final 15%, I’m a “Moderate Republican”. That’s the entire point. In my work life, I have to balance some really big fucking egos – writers, actors, directors, other producers, studio executives. network executives – and NO ONE, EVER, gets everything they want. They compromise. They accept that 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Too many progressives can’t take a win, because it’s not a big enough win. It’s not perfect, so, to some, it’s not worth it.

    On some issues, I guarantee I’m more liberal than most here. On others, not so much. But that don’t make me a “moderate Republican.”

  26. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And since about 2015 progressives have done everything they can to alienate me and expel me.

    Our own @DK calls me a racist because I made a crack about Argentinians.

    Again: I’m not a progressive. I’m a McCain Republican turned doctrinaire Democrat. It’s unsurprising you continue to lie about this: lying is among the things you do best. Just like you lie about the reasons I’ve called you racist, deliberately leaving out your habit of blaming “blacks and Hispanics” for problems caused by white people.

    Your phony outrage about that is amusing, given how you love to smear as antisemitic those who criticize Israeli government failures. Your problem is you can dish it but you can’t take it. Textbook white fragility.

    So I suspect much of the grief you allegedly get from “progressives” is more about your hypocrisy, dogged insistence on repeating falsehoods and half truths, and self-pitying attempts to play the matryed victim. It’s always all about you, isn’t it?

    As to the rest, nobody can be ‘alienated from’ their principles. If one decides to abandon their principles, they were always insufficiently committed. Either you believe in freedom, equality, morals, decency, humanity, justice, the general welfare, and democracy — or you don’t. This whole ‘a progressive hurt my feelings on Twitter so I’ve been alienated into supporting fascism’ is just white nonsense that white supremacists and its enablers trot out to avoid responsibility. It’s as lame an attempt at blame-shifting as it would be to say, ‘I had an argument with a woman online, so now I think rape is okay.’

    I’ve been called a n–g–r and a f–g–t all my life. I don’t vote for fascists. My parents and grandparents grew up under Jim Crow. They don’t and didn’t abandon liberal democracy. When Michael Reynolds falsely smears me as a Jew-hating Hamas supporter, I didn’t launch into some self-absorbed crybaby screed about how I’m being “alienated” and “expelled” from Biden’s Netanyahu-hugging Democratic Party. Because it’s not about me and my fwagile wittle feelings, or about some immature Boomer manchild online. It’s about doing the right thing all the time, no matter which way the winds are blowing.

    And it’s time for the entitled demographics that love to pontificate about personal responsibility (for everyone else) to actually take some when it comes to their crappy voting patterns and lack of sociopolitical morality.

    It’s not surprising to see who argues that their ethics are someone else’s responsibility.

  27. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: There are employment lawyers in the state that can answer the question of whether a Palestinian flag pin or a swastika pin are legal reasons for firing, given the policies and conditions on the job. (The swastika pin may be a religious symbol, so it’s complicated.).

    But, that doesn’t mean that, even if the action is legal, people cannot use their free speech to protest that firing. Either for Palestinian flag pin, religious use of swastika, or nazi use of swastika.

    Actions have consequences. Even legal actions.

    I’m in the fire the nazi camp, because nazis should always be fired.

    I don’t see a Palestinian flag as synonymous with a swastika, however, because I’m not a screaming fucking bigot.

  28. DK says:

    To the extent people are moving to the right more than to the left—and, again, I’m not sure there’s a lot of empirical evidence for that—I suspect it’s a function of the current Democratic Party being more ideologically coherent than the current Republican Party (very much a reversal of the recent norm).


    Those who think Fetterman or “progressives” are “moving right” are the same crowd who were surprised when Biden ran away with the 2020 nomination, surprised when the big bad Red Wave of 2022 didn’t materialize, surprised when a mini blue wave occurred on election night 2023, surprised at Ron DeSantis’s anti-woke silliness not translating well to a presidential campaign.

    Namely: journalists and other extremely online political junkies who don’t know what average voters believe, mistaking online comments sections — trolls and self-selected sample of some of our most neurotic citizens — for real life.

    Twitter does not represent most Americans. (Neither do activist lobby groups like Moms for Liberty or whomever on the left is supposedly so upset about border negotiations, according to the media.) Fetterman and other Pennsylvania Democrats get that. Their views are reasonable and reflect those of mainstream liberals. Biden and national Democrats should follow suit, starting with just accepting the darn Ukraine/border/Israel/Taiwan compromise deal.

  29. drj says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    ETA: Answer the question about swastika pins. By your logic any employer who allows a ‘have a nice day’ pin would have to allow a swastika pin. I’ll say it again: idiot.

    This is a bad-faith counter argument (and fairly typical for how you have been behaving lately).

    Looking at it from an 1A perspective (which can sometimes intersect with employment law), the general rule is that equivalent forms of speech cannot be treated differently. If you allow GOP pins, you must also allow Democratic Party pins. If you allow crosses, you must also allow stars of David. Etc., etc.

    So maybe that point wasn’t made too well. And it would have been perfectly fine to point that out.

    But instead you turn a point that originally had some merit into an entirely silly caricature so that you would have a reason to call someone else an idiot.

    That is something that assholes do.

  30. SenyorDave says:

    Look, if someone compares a pro-Palestinian pin to a swastika pin or a kkk pin, they are either being disingenuous or they are an idiot. Based on his general level of discourse in this blog, I would guess it is the former. Whether liar or idiot, there is not much to be gained by engaging (which I should have thought of before attempting to engage).

  31. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Dear progressives: if I’m the problem, you’re fucked. Pull out a ruler. 12 inches. Over by the one inch line, that’s MAGA. I’m over around the 10 inch line. Not 12, not 11, but a solid, reliable ten. If that’s where you’re drawing the heresy line, do the fucking math.

    You’ve treated anyone to the left of you as the problem for ages. Queer folks get too vocal, they’re the problem. Immigration advocates get too vocal, they’re the problems. Folks who don’t want us supporting the bombing of civilian populations, they’re the problem.

    This has been your schtick for the past few years, as the party has drifted a bit to the left.

    You’re in a coalition, and you can’t win without the folks to your left. You either have to bring more of them into the coalition than you will lose by having them in the coalition, or bring in a lot more moderates pretty far to your right.

    But there aren’t any unclaimed moderates anymore. They’re all voting Democrat. So, Progressives it is, and that means letting them have a voice, giving them some breadcrumbs, and trying to get them engaged on your priorities so they will settle for breadcrumbs on theirs.

    You could also try wiping out some Republican voters. I suggest selling some miracle covid preventative that gives them terrible diarrhea right before the election.

    I think the Biden administration has been doing a piss poor job with distributing tasty breadcrumbs. (Student loan stuff has been a few croutons, larger than breadcrumbs, but devoured and forgotten.)

    And there’s a “Vote Blue No Matter Who” crowd that pisses off the folks who aren’t getting their regular breadcrumbs. The message that people are hearing is “Vote Blue even though we do nothing for you.”*

    I’m hoping that this is just a lull and the Biden folks are gathering breadcrumbs, and preparing for a big breadcrumb distribution, but right now there’s an unfortunate vacuum where self- proclaimed “non-progressives” (status quo loving small-c-conservatives to uncomfortable allies) are talking way too much, directing their anger at the left, and just hammering on the fault lines of the coalition by repeating right wing talking points.

    It’s dumb. It risks biting you in the ass. A lot of people have more exposed asses, granted, but after the righteous indignation at those horrible progressives who let Trump win fades, you still have Trump.

    *: The time for a “hold your nose and vote” message is probably September 2024. Anything before that and it’s just proudly proclaiming “we suck!”

  32. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The only country that protects women’s rights and gay rights

    If I could remove one talking point from the moderate-left* it would be the “we must support Israel’s actions because of the gays.”

    It’s might as well be tailor made to hit at fault lines and push away the people it’s supposed to appeal to.

    Queer folk are, by and large, way more progressive than the average Democrat, and progressives are way more likely to either be queer or have close queer friends. This is the group that is most likely to be describing the Israeli attack on Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure as “genocide.”

    It ties opposing the Israeli assault, and opposing those who support it, to core issues of identity. It takes “genocide over there” (which is bad, but might be priority #3-5 for a lot of people) and binds it closely to “freedom to be myself” which is usually going to be priority #1 or 2.

    The best interpretation is that it is a disingenuous bad-faith argument, showing a patronizing “we know better than you, so shut up and follow your betters.” But taken as an earnest statement, it becomes “we’re committing genocide for you.”

    The reaction is going to range from “how fucking dare you say that” to “how fucking dare you do that.”

    Don’t commit genocide for me. If you want to get me something, get me flowers rather than a bunch of dead Palestinian kids**.

    *: MR might agree on most issues with progressives, but not on priorities or urgency. That’s functionally moderate, even if the issues are liberal.

    It’s the “70% of Americans support gun control, but if only 10% care, it’s just not going to happen” thing.

    **: What am I going to do with a bunch of dead Palestinian kids? Even if I cooked, I’m not getting the actual bodies, so it’s useless.

  33. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I’ve never known someone that wasn’t a hypocrite.

  34. SenyorDave says:

    @Gustopher: What am I going to do with a bunch of dead Palestinian kids? Even if I cooked, I’m not getting the actual bodies, so it’s useless.
    Shades of A Modest Proposal? (although the satire doesn’t quite work when dealing with actual dead children).

  35. anjin-san says:

    I don’t see how telling a restaurant employee they can’t wear a pin with a political message infringes free speech, and I say that as someone who has worked in world-famous restaurants, coffee shops and most things in-between.

    Now, if you told employees they could wear Star of David pins, but not pro-Palestinian pins, that would be a different matter. At any rate, having your staff sporting political messages at work is bad for business, as no matter what your message is, some customers will certainly not dig it.

    Wear anything you like on your own time. When you are at work, you should be working, not making political statements.

  36. Gustopher says:

    @anjin-san: The employment law is complicated, and will depend on a lot of variables, and is nowhere near as cut and dried as you think.

    For instance, it’s an Israeli restaurant. Are Israeli flags on menus decorative, are they advertising the type of food, or are they compelled political speech? If you have something that appears to be compelled speech, do you have to allow a modest amount of freedom the other way? (We live in a world where Pharmacists don’t have to fill prescriptions they are opposed to, after all) Does it matter if the restaurant is having fundraisers for Israeli first responders?

    Is all political speech forbidden, or just some? Is a flag pin of the country of your heritage inherently political?

    It’s a legal thicket. There are a lot of competing issues and rights that have to be balanced.

    Anyone who is claiming to have a clear answer who isn’t a labor lawyer in the city (there’s likely to be city, county, state and federal issues at play), and who isn’t well versed in the stated policies and the enforced working conditions of the restaurant before 10/7 and any changes afterwards is just talking out their ass.

  37. Anjin-san says:
  38. anjin-san says:


    Anyone who is claiming to have a clear answer

    I think I made it clear I was stating my opinion. I do note that the HR professionals at the link I posted seem to agree with me.

  39. DaveD says:
  40. anjin-san says: