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?