Uncategorized | 2:32 pm | April 11, 2011 | By Jack Newsham

OPINION | Revisiting the Democrats

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column detailing my frustrations with the Democratic Party. I wrote how I was tired of its lack of principle and of its willingness—no, eagerness—to compromise on its platform. I wrote that I was tired of a party that got elected on new ideas and promises of change, but gave up for the simplicity of the status quo. Ultimately, though, I don’t think my message was entirely clear.

Despite the somewhat grave final note of my column, I support the Democratic Party. I canvass for them, I vote for them, and I generally approve of their actions. And until the United States switches to a party list system or a single transferrable vote for fairer and more third-party-accessible federal elections, I’m probably going to keep doing so. More than anything, I’m afraid of the alternative—which I realize is exactly what my party wants. They don’t have to pay me any heed, as long as they continue at least paying lip service to being better than the alternative.

On Monday, the day Barack Obama both announced his re-election campaign and broke a campaign promise by announcing that he would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military commission rather than before a real court, Rachel Maddow offered astute analysis of his base’s dilemma. Contrasting the power the Republican base has over their party with the weak progressive influence on Democrats—explaining why there are dozens of Tea Partiers on one side and Dennis Kucinich on the other—she noted that as much as Obama “kicks his base in the teeth,” the Democratic Party institutional structure will still “think it’s good politics for Democratic politicians to kick that base publicly whenever possible.”

I tell myself I won’t stand for it: I write, I call my reps, I canvass, and occasionally I get a word with them. But in supporting them, am I not continuing to stand for it: for torture, interventionism, for plutocracy, for the end of the rule of law? As Maddow ended, “only the base itself will ever change” how they are treated by the Democratic Party. So how do we get what we want without risking getting that which we most fear?

Comments
  • SY10

    Jack,

    Frankly, I don’t think the Dems will listen to their base until we do what the Republican base does. That is, cause them to lose elections. The Republican base is the reason the Republicans lost Senate races like Nevada and Delaware in the last cycle. It defeated incumbent Republicans in primaries in places like Utah. The Republicans are afraid of their base, because their base will abandon them when it doesn’t get what it wants. Obviously, we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but I have an increasingly hard time calling the Democratic Party anything like “good.” I know that I can put up with a lot of compromise – and a lot of the time it’s necessary – but I will not vote for someone who I consider guilty of war crimes, even when he’s a Democrat. If we can’t even make that a principle we abide by, maybe we’re not worth listening to. Anyhow, it’s why I’ve decided not to vote for Obama next election (I’ll vote Green, or something, since I certainly would never vote for the Republicans). Since I’ll be in a safely blue state, it won’t really matter, but if enough Democrats make the same choice, the party will have to pay attention because it will have reason to be scared.