Grow up. The country needs us.

T.A. Barnhart

The Democratic Party, and liberalism in general, have been in steady decline for nearly four decades. Despite recent positive signs such as last year's election and the growth of grassroots progressivism, American politics is still dominated by the right wing. Whatever gains have been made of late are tenuous and could be easily lost.

Nonetheless, things are changing, and the progressive movement can help lead America, and the world, away from the destructiveness of the hard-right conservatives. But we won't do it by playing politics in the old ways; we have to bring our politics into this century — or we risk losing more than a few elections in 2008.

And the first thing we on the left have to do is grow up.

In contemporary American politics, the left, which extends well into the range conventionally considered "moderate", has incredible diversity. Ethnicity, faith, occupation, issues, personhood: there are so many differences, such a wealth of all that is human, to be found within the population of American liberals and progressives. We are rich, poor and in-between. The entire palate of skin color is represented. There is no profession or faith that is not a strong part of the left (unless it's arms manufacturers, big pharm, tobacco or the "god hates fags" nutjobs). And of course, when it comes to issues like full rights of GLBTs, choice, education, the environment, unions, peace, real security, health care — not only are these areas represented by liberals and progressives across the nation, but across a wide spectrum of opinion. As many have noted, within the the left in general, and the Democratic Party in particular, is America in all its vast diversity.

This is an amazing source of strength, knowledge and wisdom. It is also a major pain in the ass. Not because it's hard to align all these factors, including the differences of opinion. The process of sythesizing and coordinating difference is, or should be, a dynamic means of achieving a set of principles, policies and activities on which both elections and government can be based. Difference provides a crucible in which we can develop our strengths and values. No, the pain comes when true believers decide that the moral superiority of their perspective trumps everything else. Among far too many liberals and progressives exists an attitude that says "If the Democratic Party, or its candidates, won't support my issue as I see it — I'm not gonna vote for you."

I'm not talking about walking away from a Joe Liebermann who stopped being a Democrat long before Ned Lamont beat him in the primary. I'm talking about good Democrats who've spent a lifetime fighting hard for the issues the majority of Democrats, and independents who share their objectives, believe in. Yet find one issue, or even one vote, on which these good people vote "wrong," and that's it. I'm outta here.

This is childish. A thirteen-year-old has snits like that: I hate you! I'm not your friend anymore! Grown-ups are supposed to apply more mature standards, including communication and compromise. Communication involves listening more than talking, and it has no restrictions other than to not hurt other people. Compromise is the basic method by which people of diverse opinion and belief can live together without resort to violence or tyranny. Obviously, there are some issues on which compromise is not acceptable, but there are very few of these. Slavery, harm to children and others without power, things like that. Health care policy, education policy, willingness to impeach the president — these are not make-or-break issues, not when we face problems of such proportion — i.e., life-and-death issues, like the fate of the planet — that other things fade in comparison and require all hands on deck.

We have to act like adults. Saying "I will never vote for Hillary" or "I can't vote for Obama because of [fill in your pet Truth]" is not how a responsible grown-up behaves. That's how a child refuses to accept the choices made by a democratic majority and decides that pouting will do more good. I have no wish to see Hillary win the nomination, but I had even less desire to see Kerry win it in 2004. When he did, I worked harder on his campaign than anything else I've ever done before in politics. Not because I suddenly believed he was the best candidate but because the big picture was far, far more important than my belief that what the country really needed was Howard Dean. Dean lost, so I worked for Kerry. That's what we do in a democracy: we go with the outcome of the vote.

And then we work for a better outcome next time. Looking ahead to, and then working for, a future outcome is something adults do; children get traumatized because they don't get their way right now. My life is over! You've ruined everything! Ah yes, the plaintive despair of the fourteen-year-old who gets grounded for a month. And the behavior of Democratics and lefties who don't like the way the process turns out for their special cause.

I absolutely agree that we have far too many elected Democrats who should to be replaced. All them "blue dogs" what voted for funding the war: bad doggies. Replacing them would be great, but so would getting them to see the light; and for that to happen, we probably need to remain on friendly terms. However, to say that requires that I also add: it may not be my business. I live in Portland, about as lefty a city as you will find. The question here is: Why should people in West Virginia, or Mississippi, or North Dakota, have the same view on life as we lefties in the Pacific Northwest? Isn't that moving us towards the singleness of mind that allows the GOP to be controlled by the likes of Gingrich, Delay, Rove and Pat Robertson? I think we have to recognize, and accept, that a Democrat from an Eastern rural area, like Heath Shuler, is not going to share left coast liberal views. Why should he?

Progressives must have the courage to accept the dangers of democracy. Bobby Kennedy once said:

Democracy is no easy form of government. Few nations have been able to sustain it. For it requires that we take the chances of freedom; that the liberating play of reason be brought to bear on events filled with passion; that dissent be allowed to make its appeal for acceptance; that men chance error in their search for the truth....

Kennedy was saying to have the guts to believe in democracy. His words were in the context of whether or not the United States would negotiate with South Vietnamese Communist insurgents. Kennedy said yes, and I say the least we can do today is have that same courage with one another. Democrats who do not share my views on choice, or the rights of gays and lesbians, are not my enemies. I have no intention of cutting myself off from them anymore than I would refuse to support John Edwards for president, should he win the nomination, because of his regrettable view on gay marriage.

For forty years now the Republican Party has been kicking the Democratic Party's butt. As a result, the country and the world have suffered terribly. And yet we know it is we, and not they, represent the interests of most Americans. We, however, have proven so inept at forming productive, enduring coalitions that can win elections, not to mention create strong governments, that our victory in 2006 left us far short of any kind of majority that could do something as necessary as stopping the goddamn war. That's the hole the left has dug for itself over four decades. And one major reason we are in this hole is that too many of us, adamantly refusing to compromise in the tiniest measure the purity of our most revered ideological dogma, rejected the silly notion that maybe we should accept a compromise so that in another year or two, or ten, we could acheive even more.

Instead, we have achieved even less.

It's time for the left to grow up and take charge of our country like adults. We can begin by accepting that we are not always going to get our own way, and that we not everyone is going to see the world exactly, and pristinely, as we —as I — do. Over two hundred years ago, a group of men got together and forged a set of compromises that left most dissatisfied but achieved a greater purpose: the forming of a nation and the establishment of a constitution. Many of the compromises turned out have tremendous wisdom and strength to them; separation of government in three branches perhaps above all. The compromise on slavery was heinous, but without it, it's likely the attempt to form a nation would have failed and the European powers would have retaken the disparate states. In time, of course, the best parts of the structure created by compromise brought full legal rights to all Americans (almost all; we're still working on completing this work). Those wedded to ideological purity would say shame on the Founders for failing to do the right thing in the first place. I say, we do today what we can.

There are, of course, sound reasons on which to debate what we are capable of doing today. Could we proceed with impeachment and end the war? That is an open question with strong arguments available on both sides. But vowing to never, ever vote for any Democrat again because Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table — that's just dumb. Childish. And it flies directly in the face of the essence of democracy, a government formed of the imperfections of the sum total of all citizens, all beliefs, none given primacy over any other.

(To cop to my own sins, it's not only about ideological purity on specific issues. Sometimes, as with me, it's simply the attitudes of fellow lefties and Dems. We so often seem incapable of agreeing to disagree; I try to avoid, like the frikkin plague, public discussions on which people disagree very passionately. When people say the kinds of things listed above, I can end up acting like a four-year-old screaming in the middle of the cereal aisle at Freddie's because Mom refuses to buy the Cocoa Puffs ("This brand tastes the same and costs $2 less"). Just to say: No way am I free from my share of criticism.)

That said, I don't know if I will survive the primaries with people declaring why they won't for this Democrat or the other. Because such a declaration has one unavoidable translation: If I don't get my way, I won't care that Romney, Guiliani or Thomspon wins; my issue is far more important. More important than saving the planet from the harm we're doing to the climate? Getting my way means more to me than stopping these neocon bastards from launching more wars in the name of security and defense (but really for oil and power)? If the majority of voters pick the wrong candidate, then I don't care about stopping genocides, putting health before profit, free elections in America, the right of a woman to choose, the civil rights of gays and lesbians, the future we are handing our children? You picked the wrong candidate and I refuse to vote for her/him!

Please tell me what issue matters that much. Yes, Hillary's vote on authorizing the war was hideous and wrong, as is her refusal to take any responsibiliy for that vote. But does that mean we allow Rudy Guiliani to succeed George Bush? Obama's health care plan is far from satisfactory, so we walk away from the process and let Mitt Romney enrich the health care industry even more? Is the sum total of Hillary's deficiencies so egregious that turning the country over to Fred "Ghost of Reagan" Thompson makes the slightest bit of political or moral sense?

Have people forgotten that in 2000, Ralph Nader convinced several million voters that Al Gore was the Tweedle-dee to Bush's Tweedle-dum? Except, of course, he was nowhere near that. President Gore would probably have stopped 9/11, and, if not, he would have caught bin Laden — and then come straight home (where his signed copy of the Kyoto treaty would have been waiting).

I was chastised in an email recently for calling "stupid" someone who made such a "I won't vote for..." statement; I actually called the attitude stupid. I'm not going to back down from that. I do believe this attitude of moral rectitude and superiority, which at heart is also a dogmatic insistence on one's own political and moral superiority, is stupid. I desperately want to see Barack Obama elected president next year; I can think of no better antidote to the Bush-Cheney years. But if the democratic process results in a victory for Hillary or Edwards, so be it. I have the next six months or so to get my guy the nomination; if other Democrats decide they want someone else, I'm cool with that. It's democracy. It's what we do instead of parking cars full of explosives near police stations, markets and city halls. It's what we do instead of surrendering to the tv and letting someone else decide the future for us.

It's what a grown-up does.

  • George Seldes (unverified)

    You know, this didn't work with Humphrey, and it didn't work with Kerry --- maybe this time the Democratic Party ought to think harder about the general election before concluding the nomination, particularly a nomination process so dangerously (and conveniently for Hilary) front-loaded.

    Tell you what, all the people who say they'll vote for any Democratic candidate (including Hilary) should just quit bashing those people who are trying to warn you that they don't feel the same way -- that they won't vote for Hilary -- and take the medicine that they're trying to serve up to others: OK, since you think I ought to swear an oath to support any nominee, including Hilary, fine, quit backing Hilary and nominate Edwards or Obama, and then we're all happy -- we all get a Democratic nominee we can support who can win the election.

    Meanwhile, preemptively calling people childish for trying to warn the party not to drive over a cliff is -- well, childish.

  • CB_Brooklyn (unverified)

    [off-topic post about a 9/11 alternative theory deleted.]

  • John-Mark Gilhousen (unverified)

    I could not applaud your sentiment more wholeheartedly. However (you knew that was coming), I think it is also a mark of political maturity to avoid equating criticism of Democratic candidates during the primary season with disloyalty to the party or the liberal/progressive cause. It is a core value of our party to embrace the diversity which you celebrate so eloquently in your post, and we must be willing to equally embrace the healthy debate, and voices of dissent, generated by that diversity. It is one of the distinctives of a healthy democracy, and to sacrifice it in the name of party unity would be akin to... well... sacrificing civil liberties in the name of national security. I can think of a party that operates on that basis, and its name doesn't begin with a "D."

    Nobody wants to see a collective bloodletting during the primary races from which the ultimate nominee cannot recover, but if we want to consider the natural product of instituting a lock-step party-line unity we need look no further than the monumental failures of the current administration as an example.

    John-Mark +

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    I think the fear is that since Hillary is the front runner and a pretty strong candidate, that people will settle for her as the nominee. Certainly I as a Democrat don't want to feel like I'm being told who to support. Then you get into the general election with the choice between the lesser of the two evils. What kind of choice is that?

    As someone that dislikes Hillary Clinton, I have some pretty strong reasons behind my feelings. Are we suppose to say "suck it up that's what we're stuck with"?

    We both agree Kerry did a lousy job in the General Election and he got bombarded by things like the swiftboat committee on things that really weren't even issues. It's obvious this time around we need a candidate who doesn't care lots of baggage.

    The Clinton campaign would like nothing more then for people to fall in behind her and end the race before it starts. If that's how we are electing our leaders(again pointing back to those saying she's unbeatable because of the polls), then God forbid our nation is in a whole ****load of trouble (not that we aren't already after 6 yrs of Bush).

    This primary campaign should be an open honest discussion about who our nominee is. In the event I disagree or dislike the eventual nominee, then tough! There is no written rule I have to vote for that person. That is what a democracy is all about, making choices. Saying, "grow up and fall in line" is disturbingly close to a communism.

    I will say that most always I DO vote for the Democrat all the way down the ticket.

  • (Show?)

    Thank you John-Mark!

    I am a John Edwards supporter but I will work my ass off for Hillary if she is nominated.

    I am a Steve Novick supporter but I will unhesitatingly give Jeff Merkley my full support if he is nominated.

    Having said that, I reserve the right to support my preferred candidates with vigor and enthusiasm all the way through the primary.

  • (Show?)

    just a quick insertion here: i am not demanding party loyalty. set that aside. there's a time and a place to work through disagreements in one's own house. and a smart time is a better than a stupid time. it didn't help me & my ex-wife when we had "discussions" at (yawwwn) 11:45 pm....

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    If I cannot figure out how a candidate (say Hillary) qualifies as a Democrat by votes and financial supporters it wouldn't be a real stretch to figure I might not do any work for such a candidate and my vote might be one of lesser of two evils... And, yes, in the face of my obstinate support of the 2nd A I worked my a** off for Kerry.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    In the midst of an excellent warning to the Democrats, Mr. Barnhart throws in a slam at Joe Lieberman as not being a true Democrat.

    Guess what, T.A. - Lieberman is a Democrat. He may have been ambushed by the hard left in Connecticut, but he aligns himself with the Democratic party, and on domestic issues at least he certainly isn't anywhere to the right of Hillary Clinton or a lot of other Senate Democrats. Despite his wrong-headedness on Iraq, he is a welcome voice against the willy-nilly knee-jerk isolationist Smoot-Hawleyish anti-globalization pacifism currently rearing its ugly head among the Democrats. And if that strain takes over the party, we will have President Giuliani in 2009.

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    "Guess what, T.A. - Lieberman is a Democrat."

    Actually, he left the party to run on his own ticket. And there's a difference between a guy who takes some un-Democratic positions (eg Bill Nelson, either of them), and one who takes those positions and then hammers Democrats in Fox media with them.

    You leave the party and spend much of your face time beating up people in the party, you can't call yourself part of that party anymore IMO.

  • Pliny (unverified)

    Epic fail.

    What you appear to be saying, a full nine months before the primary, is shut up and line up behind Hillary.

    If that's growing up, pass the Spiderman Underoos(tm).

    Seriously, your professed love for Obama and the Nader dig aside (Nader's an ass, but Al Gore is the one who lost 2000 for Al Gore) - You seem to dismiss the idea out of hand that some people's "childish" concerns might be serious matters of principle.

    My reason for swearing not to touch Hillary? I don't trust her with the tattered remnants of the Bill of Rights. I remember the shenanigans the NSA pulled under her husband. Clipper Chip, anyone?

  • (Show?)

    I wish with Hillary it was just one vote, but it is a whole series of votes and stands on issues that make her unpalatable. If Hillary is our nominee, I will hold my nose and vote for her, but concentrate my efforts toward electing Novick or Merkley. Plus I will be extremely disappointed in my fellow Democrats if Hillary is our nominee.

  • Anthony Stine (unverified)

    I couldn't agree more with what was written; I've been pulling my hair out the last few weeks with people around my saying essentially that they'd rather have another fundie GOP president than Hillary Clinton (which to me is an unfathomable surrender). Thank you for putting it straight forwardly. The time for disagreements is during the primaries--the time for compromise is during the election.

  • JohnH (unverified)

    I heartily disagree. The main problem with the Democratic Party is that it takes its base for granted. The only way to change Democratic Party behavior is a credible threat of mass disaffection and mass defection from the ruling corporate Democrats.

    We are way too early in the election process for people to pledge votes to whichever corporate candidate wins the primary. Since the base can't sway candidates with money, it must hold candidates feet to the fire and force them to show with their votes in Congress that they understand our issues and concerns. If they won't do that, they must understand that they really may lose our votes in Novermber 08.

    As for me, all options are on the table, including 3rd party candidates. Ambiguity of intention is a powerful force, and the Democratic base needs to capitalize on it.

  • (Show?)

    JohnH, if the party takes the base for granted, how did Howard Dean end up as Chair? the party's insiders opposed him entirely and fought back hard. the Clinton's and the rest of the DLC (which stands for "Democrats who Lose Campaigns") tried desperately to find anyone who could stop Dean. but the party base was not to be denied, and as a result, the DNC is being run by someone who believes in progressive grassroots democracy. hence, we have the 50-State Plan, with permanent paid activists in every state. Dean lets the states keep unprecendented amounts of the money they raise to do local partybuilding. and the DC insiders who attacked Dean in 2006: now silent and admonished because he was right and they were wrong.

    the base may not control things within the Beltway, but i haven't noticed lately that there is a Democratic Caucus Primary being held anytime soon. a handful of Dems in Iowa will set the tone for the primary, followed by a small number of NH Dems and then voters in various states. Obama's a front-runner because many in the base have decided his message of hope is what they want to support, while Hillary is in front because many in the base support her experience and political savvy.

    empowerment is never given, dude, no more than is freedom. you go out and take it. "You have the power!" was Dean's rallying cry in 2003, and it stuck with many of us. we took power, and we haven't stopped. i refuse to let something like the wrong nominee deter me. if i have to settle for Hillary, i'll settle for Hillary. she's only the president, not the country. Bush has been able to do what he has because we, as well as the press and the Congress, let him. if the best start to fixing things available to me is voting for Hillary, i'll take it. even with Pres Obama, it would still be up to me and you and the rest of us. the commitment is not to the party, but the process, and in contemporary American politics, you'll have 2 viable choices for president in 2008. let's elect the best possible person in 2008, and that'll be a Democrat, and then move on to fixing what's wrong. including the fact that 3rd parties begin with no chance in hell.

  • LT (unverified)

    I heartily disagree. The main problem with the Democratic Party is that it takes its base for granted

    John H, can you tell me the names of anyone in the "base" or is it just a theoretical construct? Who measures what the "base" believes? Or is that just rhetoric?

    For instance, are both Merkley and Novick supporters part of the "base"? Are all current and former members of the State Central Comm. part of the "base"? Is everyone who has ever volunteered on more than one Democratic campaign part of the "base"?

    If a candidate is trying to attract new voters (under 20, new to the state, etc.) does that mean they might have to speak about issues which are not part of the "base" comfort zone?

    The use of this word is beginning to bother me, as it is so vague.

    Many years ago my favorite history prof. said he distrusted the phrase "the American people" because when diff. people used it the term meant different things. He told the class that to get the true meaning of the sentence, "people like us" should be substituted for "the American people".

    Is that true with "base"? Esp. when independent voters decide so many elections?

    A few decades ago, I was local volunteer coordinator on a statewide primary campaign for a candidate not supported by many "establishment" members (pct. people, central comm. people, etc.). The day the local campaign was organized, it was one of those "this committee in this corner, that committee in that corner" sorts of things and I walked over to the volunteer committee. And didn't recognize a face!

    I asked if anyone else had worked on a campaign before and proceeded to to tell them about my volunteer campaign experiences over the previous decade. Then I asked if they wanted me to be the chair since no one else had any campaign experience. "Oh, would you please" someone said.

    Our primary candidate ended up getting 59% of the vote, and many new pct. people were elected. Over the next few years we had a major role in the workings of the Democratic party from pct. level to state standing committees and a member of the 1988 national platform committee.

    But were we ever part of the "base" since we disagreed on some issues with other long time party members?

    If you mean that people who feel a certain way on Iraq, or who have contributed a certain amount of volunteer work to the Democratic Party, or some other specific, please say so.

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    Well then, am I allowed to be pissed at KGW for refusing to air Keith Olberman at 4 PM yesterday? Keith did a PREGAME show, yet KGW put it on at 10 PM, well after the football game. Instead they gave us some infomercial at 4pm.

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    Well then, am I allowed to be pissed at KGW for refusing to air Keith Olberman at 4 PM yesterday? Keith did a PREGAME show, yet KGW put it on at 10 PM, well after the football game. Instead they gave us some infomercial at 4pm.

  • blankp (unverified)

    With me, it is not ONE issue, never has been. There have been final straws that may appear to be One Issue due to the vitriol they produce, but I have never abandoned any candidate on one issue.

    I am abandoning Brain Baird based on (my analysis) 56% failure on many key votes over many years. Yeah, sure there are some who go ballistic over one position. But I think they are not a majority of us who have decided against, say Hillary or in my case Baird. I think lumping the disaffected as necessarily knee-jerk is, ahem, knee-jerk.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    T.A. -

    Your argument rests upon the back of a strawman. I really don't see people leaving the big tent of the Democratic Party due to one issue. What I see, is that people build up to leaving the Democratic Party due to dissatisfaction with a variety of issues, and then there is that last one issue that becomes the straw that breaks the camel's back.

    Along the way, there is a trait among liberal/Democrats that makes a bad situation worse - and we see it on Blue Oregon all the time. If someone puts out an opinion that you disagree with, the first and last assumption made is that the person with that opinion is ignorant and in need of education. And what then follows is a dump of information, sometimes good stuff but often very selectively picked out, that is supposed to change someone's mind. Well, politics is more emotional than that. The person being dumped on, often feels, well, dumped on.

    What the liberals/Democrats consistently miss is the opportunity to make a personal and emotional connection to people.

    So, T.A., your parental lecture to "grow up" is in fact the epitome of what is wrong with liberal/Democrats. The paradigm is that if you disagree, you are a child who ought to listen to the parent who knows better.

    There are better ways, but... Well, if listening is part of the formula, sending a message is a waste of time.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, Dean is a perfect example of the real disconnect in the Democratic Party.

    Dean didn't lose because nobody in the upper reaches of the Democratic party was for him. Far from it - he had the majority of the superdelegates on his side.

    What killed him was the rank and file. Not the active activists like myself, but Democratic voters who went out to the Iowa caucuses. They were judging based on electability that year, and they liked Kerry's resume better than Dean's.

    I disagreed. I still do. But the lesson is one I won't forget. There are a lot of people out there who aren't political addicts and/or aren't radical, but are still members of the "base". They vote in Democratic primaries. Their vote counts just as much as mine does. And they often don't agree with conventional wisdom you find touted again and again in Blue Oregon or the Democratic Underground.

    Most of the frustration I hear with our elected officials is couched in terms of "giving in to the Republicans", but quite often, it's really just listening to this disconnected majority. (I hesitate to call them a "silent majority" because they're anything but silent if you get into a conversation with them.) This is one reason why I feel that Congressman Baird is unlikely to suffer electorally as a so-called "responsible" Democrat. Many Democrats agree with him.

  • Dan (unverified)


    You wouldn't encourage a battered woman to return home to the abusing spouse, would you?

    So why castigate those people who are tired of being screwed over by a major party on those issues they are passionate about? If the party is simply paying lip service or taking support for granted, what power do we have? As long as we keep writing the checks or showing up to vote, they have absolutely no incentive to change course.

    Over the years, I have read some absolutely asinine posts from T.A. But this idea that somehow the party knows better and we are just supposed to bend over and take it, because in the big picture, it's better to be screwed by your friends than your opponents is really the ne plus ultra of liberal arrogance and hubris.

  • (Show?)

    Dan, could you have picked a more inappropriate allegory? you equate a primary election with beating a woman?

    Steve, you should read Trippi's book (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). he's honest about his and the campaign's failures, but also clear that it was the Edwards and Clark campaigns which led an aggressive attack on Dean in Iowa to help tear him down. not to mention, i wasn't talking about Iowa! i was talking about becoming the DNC Chair, which he won because the party base campaigned for him like crazy and overcame the insiders' power.

  • (Show?)

    I'll take that metaphor, although I don't like it.

    You wouldn't encourage a battered woman to return home to the abusing spouse, would you?

    I guess I'd rather get bitchslapped every once in awhile than stomped on, raped, shot, and left for dead.


    Parties matter. They matter because the President's hands never directly touch most of the levers of government. So the President's executive branch appointees -- drawn from the party faithful who helped him or her get elected -- are the ones who really run the show, and ANY Democrat is going to staff up the executive branch with better people than ANY Republican. This is a very significant difference.

    And then there are the judicial appointments. Those are LIFETIME appointments, remember?

    Come ON.

  • Blueshift (unverified)

    Although I see that the majority of responses to T.A.'s column have focused on the implications for the Presidential campaign, I think his remarks are even more relevant for the Congressional elections. People might be saying now "I hate [insert Democratic presidential candidate here] and would rather throw myself out a window onto a pit of spikes rather than vote for him/her," but when it actually comes time to step into the ballot box (or sit down at the kitchen table, in Oregon), I believe most of these people will cast Democratic votes. I believe this because nearly all the people who object violently to one candidate or another are responsible, thinking beings who recognize that despite their legitimate grievances against particular candidates, they still share more values, principles and beliefs with the Democrats than with the Republicans.

    However, I'm not sure that this is the case with Congressional candidates. For one thing, Congressional candidates are elected by a much smaller group of people, who can reasonably expect to have more influence on their Rep. or Senator than on a presidential candidate. For another, this group of people lives within a defined geographic area, which means that their views on issues are likely to be more homogenous (not exactly the same, mind you; but most Senate candidates don't have to deal with the left coast/Heartland ideological divide). Because of these factors, we run the risk of believing that every single one of our cherished beliefs is held by all our co-electors and should be supported by our elected officials. This is where it is particularly important for people to follow T.A.'s advice and not abandon an elected official over one vote or one statement.

    I'm not saying that citizens shouldn't pressure their representatives to represent them more completely, or use their vote as leverage. But I do think agree that there is a certain juvenile quality to refusing to support someone because of one perceived betrayal of values. We on this website are among the most active, educated, and dedicated members of the liberal/progressive agenda, and sometimes we forget the people Steven Maurer wrote about above. Those people might not read the blogs everyday, or even the newspaper. They may be willing to wait another six months or a year or give someone a second, or a third, chance. If we as a party and an ideology truly stand for inclusiveness, diversity of opinion, and free and frank debate, then we have to at least give our elected representatives the basic respect and benefit of the doubt we'd give to a friend at the pub with whom we disagree.

  • Joe Anybody (unverified)

    The Party (Dems) owe the people as well! You expect the people to (compromise) and then "go with it" ...regardless?

    It is a two way street - I want some decent representation and some fortitude. Or They will not get my vote EVER!

    It is not my job to support a half/crocked agenda/candidate! I will vote for them if they earned my vote I will ditch them in a heartbeat if they wanna play games.

    I am not blind nor obedient. "They work for me" And my vote will remind them not as a childish game, but will be as revelant as the ballot and their policies and what they are willing to do for me (us citizens)

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    It might be better instead of asking the voters to "grow up" that you demand the Democratic Party quit talking out of both sides of its collective mouth. Or sounding like Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

  • Scott Ritter (unverified)

    from Why Cheney Really Is That Bad,

    "In an effort that is curiously Rovian in the quest for electoral victory, the Democratic candidates (with a few notable exceptions) have been less than bold in their opposition to the heinous policies that are currently in place concerning Iraq, Iran, the war on terror, torture and constitutional violations-unless you count empty rhetoric.

    In many ways, the leading Democrats, both those running for office and those currently holding office, are a far greater insult to American values than the conservative standard-bearers for the policies of Cheney.

    No one of substance takes seriously the manic ranting of the Hannity/Limbaugh/Coulter triad. These Democrats, on the other hand, have mastered the art of compromise to the point that they stand for nothing at all-this at a time in American history when the policies of the administration, derived from the dark abyss of Bush’s soul, Cheney, provide the most concrete example of what we as Americans should be standing against.

    The Democrats need to stand for something. Cheney has provided the sort of political ammunition that would enable them to fight, and win, a constitutional battle over the heart of America, the kind of defining struggle which I believe the vast majority of Americans would rally around.

    Unless the Democrats start separating themselves from the policies of the Bush administration, and take an active role in outing and suppressing the true evil that is Dick Cheney, all they will achieve in the coming years is a change in the titular political orientation of America, without the kind of deep-seated break from the failures and crimes of the past six-plus years that have taken our nation, and the world, right up to the edge of chaos.

    “Bush’s Brain” may be gone, but his “Soul” lives on."

  • andy (unverified)

    But T.A., what about the progressive side of the house that doesn't want to accept the bargins that the classical Dems have made with special interests such as big labor, teacher unions and trial lawyers?

    Maybe it is time for progressives to be, well, progressive and move away from just carrying water for big labor. Especially now that big labor isn't so big anymore.

  • Lenny Bruce (unverified)

    Lenny Bruce's sarcastic line seems appropriate here:

    "Come on. Grow up and be a man. Sell out."

  • (Show?)

    andy, excellent question. i think you hit on the heart of what so many people object to.

    no one has to sell out. i didn't say that. no one has to support a Joe Liebermann, who has become one of Bush's staunchest allies. i'm talking about recognizing where we are in 2007 and 2008. there are no viable 3rd parties, there are perhaps 6 people with a chance to be the next president, and 3 with a chance to be the next Senator from Oregon, and so on. if we stand on the high moral ground of refusing to vote for someone who fails to meet our standards and piss away an election -- let Guiliani win, or Smith get re-elected, that kind of thing -- then the opportunity to push for election reform disappear.

    a progressive future does not arrive in one election. we will be building that for many years. in America, change is either the result of something awful -- 9/11, Katrina, a stupid war -- or its incremental. we need to push those increments hard, but letting Romney win because Hillary is just too awful -- sheesh.

    we are our own special interests now. that was the Dean message, and that's what Obama (and to a lesser degre, Edwards) is saying. labor and teachers have their institutions, but they also have a lot of "us". we are working in the 'roots because that's the only place we are free to do as we see right. i don't know about you, andy, but i ain't carrying anyone's water. even if i end up voting for Hillary, it's because i know it's the right thing to do. i'll vote freely because i know the real power is my own.

  • (Show?)

    "big labor" = hundreds of thousands of working people and their advocates, organized to maintain their ability to support their families.

    You don't have to agree with every one of their positions, but I hate to see it made into a slur.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "big labor" = hundreds of thousands of working people and their advocates, organized to maintain their ability to support their families.

    And Big Labor has been used and abused by the Democratic Party for years. The party oligarchs take their campaign donations and give them NAFTA in return. Why Big Labor continues to take this crap is hard to fathom. Maybe they recognize what the DLC also knows or believes - they have no where else to go. Perhaps, they should try some spousal abuse hot-line and get some therapy.

  • Dan (unverified)

    I love it, T.A. I really love it.

    Instead of addressing my point, you go right for the "inappropriate" metaphor, and look for sympathy or support. You may think my comparison was crass. And it was...but I don't see much difference between the Democrat Party and a disgusting worm of a man who abuses the one person whom he is supposed to have an obligation to love, protect and defend...and then beg for forgiveness when she finally has the sense or means to leave, by promising that he really does love her, and that he won't do it again, and that he can really change.

    Until it happens again.

    Well, guess what Todd? I don't need your lectures on metaphors, and I sure as hell don't need your promises about sticking it out, and how much the party needs me, and how it really does care, and how when it beats me on the issues I need it to be strong chooses political opportunism over principal.

    "Awww...don't go, baby. You know I love you. Things just get so crazy sometimes. I can change..."

  • JohnH (unverified)

    I don't know how anyone could commit to supporting any of these bozos (Hillary, Obama, Biden, and Dodd) who collectively don't even have enough clout to get their leadership to stop introducing abominable legislation (blank check funding for Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, etc.) How can any of them possibly lead the country, when they collectively can't even get their own leadership to behave in a way that positions the party for 2008? If Democrats behave this badly before a presidential election, how will they behave afterwards? Congress has a 14% approval rating, which it thoroughly deserves, and the stench should rub off on its leading members, those who run for higher office.

    Now don't give me that canard about not having 60 votes or not having a real majority. If they don't like Bush's proposed legislation, they can simply refuse to bring it to a vote until Bush gives them something reasonable. And it would be nice if they had the good sense to read the legislation (think warrantless wiretapping) before voting on it.

    Instead of writing the final Democratic candidate a blank check (like they do so often for Bush), I say make them earn our votes. Their words may sound nice, but its time for them to be measured by their actions.

  • alice (unverified)

    I think the time spent finger pointing, casting blame needs to stop. It has and is costing us much more than wasted campaign dollars. If there is something you don't like about the DNC and/or the DPO...then DO something besides bitch. How important is the nit picking issue? really....

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    What does the Democratic Party have to do with liberalism? Real liberals of the 1930s were opposed to the New Deal and compared FDR to then-current leaders in certain countries in Europe.

    By the way, if a country "liberalizes" its gun laws, does that mean lots of gun control, or less?

    See what I mean?

    Bob Tiernan

  • pdxatheist (unverified)

    if any of you 'progressives' want to vote for fred thompson or hizzoner just because hillary isn't a cuddly teddybear, go right ahead. i love hillary to death and have been waiting a long time for this moment, because i feel strongly that she will be our next president, and she is the best candidate from either party. but i'll gladly vote for obama or edwards or bill richardson or bobbo the drunken donkey as long as he's got a big fat 'D' after his name.

    what it boils down to is that i have never, not once, pulled the trigger for a republican, and cannot conceive of any reason why i would ever do so. please, whether you're a blue dog republicrat or a screeching pinko liberal extremist, hold your nose if you have to but vote hillary if she's our gal next year. anything else is absolutely ridiculous. unless you want to fill the supreme court with alito and roberts clones.

  • Joe Anybody (unverified)

    for petes sake! .....hold my nose and vote ???

    why dont I just close my eyes as well at the poll?

    (looks like some humor has entered this thread)

  • pdxatheist (unverified)

    humor and politics! strange bedfellows indeed. though not as strange as larry craig and anonymous men in restroom airports...

    hold your nose, close your eyes, strip down to your underwear, tie your hands behind your back and run around in circles if you must, just let's put a demmiecrat in the white house for at least four years...we all know that democracy is the worst form of government except for everything else.

  • pdxatheist (unverified)
    <h2>or airport restrooms i should say.</h2>

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