Fredrik deBoer Is Being Unfairly Attacked Even If He Is Wrong on Policy

Fredrik deBoerI generally agree with Scott Lemieux, but I think he’s being disingenuous in his article, The Party Left Me And Other Complaints of the Voter-As-Atomistic-Consumer. It’s an attack on Fredrik deBoer’s article, I Am Opposed to a Hillary Clinton Presidency Because of Her Policies and Her Political Judgment. Martin Longman apparently completely agrees with Lemieux. And it just makes me think, “Didn’t anyone read deBoer’s article to the end?

You see, if you didn’t read deBoer’s article to the end, you would get a skewed view of it. Most of it is a litany of everything he disagrees with Hillary Clinton about. And he has the right. As I’ve often noted, Bernie Sanders is no socialist but just a good old fashioned New Deal Democrat. Fredrik deBoer is a socialist, apparently. He wrote, “I am a lukewarm supporter of Bernie Sanders. I am not much of a Democrat. Sanders would be, in my ideal world, the compromise candidate himself.” So it isn’t surprising that he has lots of complaints about Hillary Clinton’s policies. The majority of it consists of 5 long paragraphs starting, “I am opposed to a Hillary Clinton presidency because…”

Not About Hillary Clinton

But the article is not about his displeasure with Hillary Clinton. His displeasure is with those who he thinks claim that there is something pathological about people on the far left. He is responding specifically to Amanda Marcotte, who wrote in New Republic:

What you’re seeing is a huge drift in the party, away from having our leadership be just a bunch of white men who claim to speak for everybody else. We’re moving to a party that puts women’s interests at the center, that considers the votes of people of color just as valuable as the votes of white people. Unfortunately, some of the support for Sanders comes from people who are uncomfortable with that change and are looking to a benevolent, white patriarch to save them.

I understand Fredrik deBoer’s irritation. I’ve fought this same battle for a long time. The idea that Sanders supporters like him because he’s a white guy is ridiculous. Young women overwhelmingly support Sanders; are we really to believe that they are racist and sexist? And didn’t these same people vote for a black man in 2008 and 2012? What Marcotte wrote is the result of something that is all too common in the world of liberal punditry: the “I’m the perfect liberal” syndrome. In it, the pundit thinks that they are the most liberal that you can reasonably be. The king of this is Jonathan Chait who is fine with people considerably more conservative than he is but utterly intolerant to anyone slightly to the left of him.

Fredrik deBoer Doesn’t Like Being Called a Sexist

Fredrik deBoer’s entire article is summed up in this passage:

You might reject any or all of these substantive reasons for rejecting a Clinton presidency. You might find them deluded or unfair. You might take them to be self-evidently ridiculous. You might find that my characterizations of Clinton’s policies are biased or inaccurate. You might find them accurate and believe that they are the correct policies. All of those are reasonable, constructive responses. But they are all arguments based on substance, on acknowledging the existence of meaningful and relevant differences between two candidates who have vied for the same party’s nomination. Instead, so often these discussions have focused, as Marcotte and others have done relentlessly, on left-wing politics as a matter of hidden pathology, secret motives, and bad faith.

Now it turns out that I don’t agree with Fredrik deBoer on his reasons to not vote for Hillary Clinton. And I reject his argument against voting for the lesser of two evils. It strikes me as elitist. People with secure lives can look at the long-term, but a Trump presidency would be horrible for the weak in the short term (and the long term, I believe). So I’m with Scott Lemieux on those matters.

But despite Lemieux claiming that deBoer was just asking for a substantive debate, he’s being disingenuous. Fredrik deBoer was asking that people not claim that he didn’t have arguments and was just against Hillary Clinton because he was a bigot.

I’m not saying that Lemieux can’t attack deBoer’s arguments against Clinton, but they are a side show in the article he picked, and his article misrepresents beBoer’s argument.

Less vs Fewer: Pedantry at the Grocery Store

Express Lane: Less vs Fewer

This is a photo of the Express Lane at Whole Foods. In general, I won’t shop there because I believe that a really expensive supermarket should at least pay its people well, and it doesn’t. Also: John Mackey. But I was in a rush and I needed a bottle of really expensive beer. And so I made my way to the Express Lane and that’s where I was confronted with the less vs fewer question.

For those of you who are not into grammar, there has been a raging debate among pedants about less vs fewer. Well, it’s not exactly a debate, because all the pedants are on the same side. You will set them off if you say, as the sign above might, “15 items or less.” You see, “fewer” is for countable things and “less” is for non-countable things.

So you might have fewer bottles of water, but you would have less water. But would you be confused if someone ran up to you during a fair and said, “A guy just grabbed a box of bottled water! Now I have less bottles of water!”? No, you wouldn’t. And you wouldn’t be confused if someone said they had fewer water, even if it sounded really weird.

Pedant at the Checkout

So there’s this guy in front of me, who is one of these blow-dried health nuts — a combination of Gordon Gekko and Johnny Appleseed. And he looks up at the sign and says to the clerk, “I love it when they get the grammar right.” The clerk is at first confused and then says, “Oh, fewer! Yeah, I’m kind of a grammar guy myself.” I don’t mind the clerk; he’s just doing his job. But the customer! It took all my powers of restraint to not start shouting. It’d be something like this:

Realy?! You think that’s grammar? And how is it you know that it should be “fewer” and not “less”? It’s because your 7th grade teacher brought up the less vs fewer controversy to you. And now, you go around the world trying to make Mrs. Grammar Pedant proud of you! Can you give me one good reason why “less” is inferior to “fewer” in this case? No you can’t! It’s just a rule you learned and you somehow never learned that grammar and spelling are descriptive and not proscriptive.

The truth is the less vs fewer question is a made up one. The word “less” dates back to before the 12th century. It was at least 600 years later that someone decided that what really distinguished a learned person from a prol was how they used two identical words.

Less vs Fewer Is Pointless

This kind of stuff enrages me all the more now that I do so much editing. Because this kind of rubbish just gets in the way of work. Even a good writer needs a tremendous amount of help from their editor. There just isn’t time to worry about such trivialities. I’m far more concerned about than vs then than I am less vs fewer. At least those first two words have very different meanings.

Worrying about less vs fewer is just foolish. Or fatuous. Or silly. Oh my God! What is the exact right word to describe this?! I’m sure there are people buying eggplants in Whole Foods right now who won’t have a clue what I’m talking about.

Vacuous maybe?