27 to go: We need to make government better, not perfect

Seriously? This is what the GOP stands for. We can't beat this?
Seriously? This is what the GOP stands for. We can’t beat this?

Why does this seem as if some progressives have no clue that Republicans have been running things since 1981? Just as importantly, why do they seem to have no clue that the main reason our government is crappy right now is because a small but significant portion of the progressive movement won’t accept anything short of perfection, even though such a thing is unattainable.

I’ll never understand this quest for political perfection. I’m probably one of the most idealistic people you’ll ever meet. I believe that we as a country can do a whole lot better and can take care of everyone within our borders, as well as some beyond our borders who need us desperately. However, I also realize that what I want and what I can get are two different things. Idealism and fantasy are not the same as reality. Of course, no matter how idealistic you are, if you’re not doing anything that will actually get progress on issues and policies you claim to care about, are you really progressive? For 30 of the past 34 years, the opposite of perfect – Republicans – have either been running our government, or have held enough seats to block any sort of progress that we might want to make. when do these progressive perfectionists figure out that something is wrong, and that their tactics simply do not work?

We had a 34 year period after World War II in which progressives and Democrats worked closely together and made amazing strides, building the strongest economy in the world, in which middle-class became huge, and the vast majority of people were well off. In addition to the economic gains we made, we made enormous strides with regard to civil rights. suddenly, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, certain groups of progressives simply stopped working with Democrats. Beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Republicans have been in charge for all but four years, and the same group of progressives works against Democrats as hard as they work against Republicans, and look how far backward we have gone.

Put simply, the reason far right-wing Republicans seem to always win elections, even in years when they really shouldn’t is because they are willing to accept less than perfect, and they are willing to work together with Republicans, even though they will not get everything they demand.  Meanwhile, the far left will not.

Consider Mary Landrieu, the Senator from Louisiana. There is a very good chance that Landrieu will lose her seat in the next election. and the reason she will lose it, if she does, will be because the far left pundits have been excoriating her for years for not being “Democratic enough.” First of all, I have a problem with anyone who has developed a static definitions when a Democrat should be. this is what happens when an overwhelming number of left-wing pundits are former right-wingers; they think like right-wingers. Democrats run the gamut,iideologically speaking. We are nothing like the current incarnation of the Republican Party. Republicans have a habit of all thinking like rich white guys, even though most of them are poor. Democrats are more diverse, and they serve their constituencies, not their ideology.

Yes, Mary Landrieu is relatively favorable toward oil companies. Why would anyone with a brain expect otherwise? She represents Louisiana. It is not possible to be anti-oil company, and be elected to any office in the state of Louisiana. on the other hand, in Mary Landrieu, we have a Democrat who votes with Democrats more than 87% of the time. She is as pro-environment as she can be in Louisiana, and still be elected. She is pro-choice, she is pro-civil rights, she is pro-union, and she helped pass Obamacare.

On the other hand, Mary Landrieu’s opponent is not just a Republican, and not just something of a teabagger, he is also a proven liar. for example, just a few weeks ago Cassidy claimed Landrieu “put illegal immigrants ahead of veterans.” which was proven to be a lie. (Source) What Cassidy was talking about had to do with the sequester cuts, which certainly cannot be blamed on Mary Landrieu. In point of fact, none of the bad things that have happened in Congress over the last 34 years can be blamed on Mary Landrieu. In the 111th Congress, at no time did Mary Landrieu block a Democratic bill in the Senate, nor did she vote against cloture on any Democratically sponsored bill placed before her. in other words, Mary Landrieu became a marked woman because she couldn’t stand up to the oil industry, because she represents Louisiana. And that state, for better or worse, is absolutely dependent on the oil industry.

MOST liberals get it, and are willing to accept imperfection, because imperfection is much better than the opposite of perfection that we have been living with since 1980. The people I am talking about are PUBs, and PUB stands for “Progressive Unicorn Brigade.” PUBs are a small but significant number of liberals who refuse to accept anything less than perfection. This, despite the fact that perfect liberals have never had a majority in any national political body in world history. For all of the lionization of FDR, JFK and even LBJ by such progressives, none of those men could win an election these days, because these people would never encourage anyone to vote for them.

If you’ve ever seen the classic film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” then you’ll remember the scene in which the owner of Swamp Castle describes how he built it. The first two castles sank into the swamp, of course, as castles built on swamps are wont to do. But the third one, by God, stayed up (so far), quite possibly because it was sitting on the first two sunken castles. Go ahead and laugh, because it’s funny. But there’s also a lesson there. If you want to build something that lasts (and if you call yourself a progressive, that is exactly what you’re supposed to do), you can’t ignore the foundation upon which it’s built. And for about 40 years now, the right wing has built one hell of a swamp.

Like I said, I understand idealism, and I share the ideals of 99% of progressives. There is actually a place for ideals in the body politic, albeit in the background.  But if you really want to build a great progressive movement in this country, you have to realize that it takes a lot of time; that we can’t do it without putting together a strong political foundation; and that we don’t have the numbers to be able to do it alone. Progressives need moderates, and we need the Democratic Party.

PUBs have been politically negligent for at least 40 years. And for the last 34, a neocon minority has had control of a large portion of the government, while progressives have largely ignored the process, in favor of marching and demanding. PUBs choose to stand outside the process and make demands, while they support and vote for people with no chance of winning, calling it “principled.” PUBs scream far louder at Democrats than Republicans, even though the latter is the reason that things have been going to hell in a handbasket. I wrote this a week ago; you try to think about one serious problem we have in this country that can be lain at the feet of Democrats. Given that, since 1981, we have only had control of the government from 1993-1994 and 2009-2010, that would have to be a hell of a stretch.

We will never make progressive inroads, as long as there are enough Republicans in Congress to block any actual progress. Period.  That has to be our main goal first. After Democrats have a supermajority for a while, then we can work on perfecting the Democratic Party. Until then, even attempting to attain perfection can’t even be on the table, because the current Republican Party won’t allow it.

Of course, the most progressive “perfection” we can hope for is perhaps 10-20%. We’ll never actually be looking at 80-100%, because that’s how democracy works. Both sides make their case, and the result will always be just a little bit left or right of center.  And even that much will take a lot of hard work. The right wing took over a major political party, and they’ve held onto a disproportionate share of government for an entire generation, mostly because of a lack of a positive message that should have been coming from our side all along.

That’s the foundation we have to work with, folks. A few decades ago, a relatively small but significant number of progressives decided to abandon the system we have, and opted to shout at it from outside, rather than move it from the inside. In the process, they allowed the right wing to create a really big swamp. Our only choice at this time is for progressives to band together and build a foundation on that swamp.

There is no magic potion that will make the country progressive by sheer force of will. We can build a progressive nation, but it will take a long time, and a lot of work from inside the system. There are no shortcuts, and our ideals cannot be met by sheer force of will.  Nothing will change simply because we want it; we have to play politics the way the game was designed.

All progressives need to rejoin the Democratic Party, to amplify our voice. We have to focus more on our message and less on the right wing. And we have to encourage everyone to vote by giving them something to vote for. Because it will take time, we have to start now. That means 27 days from now, on November 4, we must blow expectations out of the water and give Democrats a historic win.

We cannot skip steps. Nothing else can happen until we push the right wing back to the fringes, where they belong. For the next 4-5 election cycles, and maybe more,  we have to vote for and support every Democrat who isn’t morally repugnant, like a David Duke or a Lyndon LaRouche. When the right wingers start losing big, the GOP will clean house. That will cause a lot of Blue Dogs to re-join the Republican Party, which is bad for the short-term, but great for the long term. Meanwhile, the whole time, we’ll be attracting voters by offering a positive message.

Politics isn’t about issues, it’s about doing whatever is necessary to effect policy and make laws that better people’s lives. If you’re not appealing to the most voters in a bid to win every election, you’re not making progress. And like it or not, the right wing has built a hell of a large swamp in 40 years, and that is what we have to build on.

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