Getting Smarter About Politics

I guess the question is, what has to happen before a great many progressives figure out that what they think about politics doesn’t work? I mean, we started losing in 1972, and we’ve continued losing ever since; over the course of 43 years, at what point do we figure out that how we think about politics doesn’t get us the progress of government we all want?

The_Cap_of_a_Fool_fits_the_Head_of_a_DunceWe even have a stellar example of what we can do in order to get a progressive government. It’s called the Obama campaign, especially in 2008. That campaign was a progressive campaign; it was a classic, in that it promoted the idea that we could do great things with government, and make people’s lives better. He won in the first landslide a Democrat has experienced since 1964, with the largest turnout since 1968 and yet within one election cycle, progressives apparently forgot that lesson and reverted back to negativity and attacking Democrats.

Seriously, how could anyone who considers themselves politically savvy believe that negativity about Democrats is going to get us anything except more Republicans in office? And yet, before Obama even took office, the professional left and the PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade) started attacking him for crap. The loudest segment of the progressive movement was already declaring his presidency a failure because he chose Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, forgetting the basic political reality that it’s the President who sets economic policy, not the Treasury Secretary; not that they evaluated Gethner fairly, anyway. They even went after him for his choice for the Christian pastor who gave the invocation. How can anyone expect to be taken seriously, politically speaking, when you are criticizing the president of the United States for not choosing “the right pastor” to say a prayer at his inauguration?

The sad part is the negativity, which built to a crescendo almost as soon as he was inaugurated. The stimulus package was too small. He was spending too much money trying to bail out the banks. He wasn’t spending enough time bashing Republicans (as if that is a policy decision that makes sense to a country that is heading toward depression.) They complained that he was “too nice” to Republicans, apparently unaware that most Americans want bipartisanship. He was purposely showing the public how he would reach out to them and they would bite his hand off, but PUBs and professional lefties attacked him, not the Republicans doing the biting of the hand. It made no sense.

DunceThey attacked everything that Obama and every Democrat did for two solid years after his inauguration. And yet, the same people give themselves zero credit when it comes to the disaster that was the 2010 election, when we gave Congress to Republicans, thus preventing him from getting anything done and then blaming him for not getting anything done.

Think about it; in addition to historic health insurance reform legislation that changed the game, Democrats in the House passed 375 bills that were blocked by the Republican minority in the Senate, precisely because Democrats did not actually have 60 votes in the Senate most of the time. Yet, in 2010 the overwhelming meme among the professional left was that Democrats and Obama were a “disappointment.” The solution to the logjam, of course, would have been to make sure the Democrats had more than 60 votes in the Senate, which would’ve meant adding 2 to 3 more Democratic senators to that body. If Republicans had 39 or fewer votes in the Senate, and still ran the house, that means 375 Democratic bills would have passed. Yet, that’s not what happened.

Instead, the PUBs and professional left instead targeted “Blue Dogs,” falsely claiming that they were responsible for the inaction of the Democratic Congress. It was complete crap on several levels. First of all, only one member of the Blue Dog caucus did not vote with Democrats at least 80% of the time. Most of them voted with Democrats more than 85% of the time and many of those targeted topped 90%. Even the one Blue Dog who didn’t vote with Democrats 80% of the time did so Democrats 68% of the time. At no time during the 111th Congress did any Blue Dog block a Democratic bill or vote against cloture. Never. Didn’t happen. But there is one other thing; no Blue Dog ever cast a deciding vote against a Democratic bill, including the Affordable Care Act. The fact is, Blue Dogs, who represent conservative districts, coordinated with Speaker Pelosi, so they could demonstrate a “no” vote at home while making sure the bill passed. And it did.

And before you scream at me and call me a liar, go look it up. I have. As bad as some Blue Dog rhetoric is at times, the people who replaced them are far more odious. Yet PUBs and pro lefties continue to brag that they have “purged” almost the entire Blue Dog Caucus from Congress. Strangely, the same people don’t take credit for helping create the Tea Party Caucus, despite the fact that every Blue Dog “purged” was replaced with a teabagger. How can a “progressive” brag about replacing Democrats who vote 80% of the time or more with teabaggers who vote with Democrats 0% of the time?

It’s just a fact. The worst Blue Dog in Congress was about 80X better than the person who replaced them when PUBs targeted them. The problem comes because too many progressives put far more value in rhetoric than results. They are so enamored with what politicians say, they refuse to consider what they do. They’re the very definition of gullible. If a politician tells you he’s going to bring peace, kill all defense programs, quadruple spending on programs for the poor and flip us over to a single player health plan, and you buy that bullshit and trash anyone who doesn’t say all that, you’re not politically savvy, you’re a gullible fool. Campaign promises are wish lists; they still need a majority in Congress to happen, and I guarantee that none of the above will happen when you target Blue Dogs and replace them with teabaggers.

I’m not talking about primaries. During primaries, support anyone you want, without trashing the other candidates, in case they win. And then, if your candidate loses in the primary, you don’t run off and sulk in the corner; you support the living shit out of the best candidate left, which right now will always be a Democrat. Always. Every time.

If you really want a majority progressive government, then you’re going to have to change people’s minds. You’re going to have to present a cogent progressive message that anyone can relate to, and you sure as shit have to tell the truth.

Yes, I say a great number of self-described progressives lie to the American people. For example, if you equate Hillary Clinton to any Republican on the political scene right now, you are lying. No, I don’t mean that you are mistaken; I mean you are lying. It is literally not possible to follow the political scene right now and see any equivalence whatsoever between any Democrat and any Republican right now. It is not true that any Democrat has anywhere near the same relationship with “Wall Street” that any Republican does. They’re not equivalent, they’re not even close. And when you tell people that Hillary is just as bad as “any Republican” you are telling bald-faced lie.

Another one of my favorites is this lie that any Democrat these days “acts like a Republican.” You can’t find a Democrat (except maybe Lyndon LaRouche) who sounds anything like any current Republican. Therefore, when you accuse a Democrat of acting like a Republican, you are lying. You are also making it more difficult for Democrats to win office, which in turn makes it more difficult for progressives to get any standing within the government. I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but progressives in government are endangered species. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, of course, because the entire country has been subjected to right wing bullshit for more than 40 years.

And that’s our fault. It’s not the fault of “the media” or right-wing talkshow hosts, or Fox News or any other bogeyman you can think of. We sabotage our own cause. We don’t present a message to the American voter that they can relate to and base their vote on. Because of that, the American people only get one message during election season; “Republicans suck and Democrats suck because they’re no different than Republicans.” We don’t present a message based on hope for the future; in fact, if you were to read the professional left, what you get is a dystopian vision that many progressives think is what is necessary to get people motivated. They’re completely wrong of course; again, we’ve been losing for 40 years.

Are you getting this?

  • Republicans and Democrats are not only not alike, they’re farther apart than they ever have been.
  • People are not motivated by gloom and doom, and Chicken Little proclamations about the end of the world; they are motivated by the idea that they can elect people who can fix things.
  • When you lie to people and they find out you did, they will not see your side of anything, no matter how right you think you are. Therefore, when you tell them Democrats are the same as Republicans, you’re not helping the progressive cause, you are killing it.
  • The root word of progressive is “progress.” The concept of progress is an overall positive. The key to a progressive future as a positive message.
  • No, negative campaigning does not work. Actually, let me rephrase that; negative campaigning works great for the right wing, but it works against everyone else. The reason is simple; people want to vote for something. They want their vote to make a positive difference in the country and the world. Our constant posturing in the negative is killing the progressive movement. If you think otherwise, then you are ignoring reality, which is that we have been losing for more than 40 years.
  • The number one strategy of the Republican Party is to drive down turnout. The reason for this is simple; the Republican base always shows up for elections. In fact, if Republican turnout goes below 80%, they literally cannot win. Most of the time, Republican turnout tops 90%. The more people they can get to stay home on election day, the better their chance of winning. Therefore, when progressives are negative, we are actually helping Republicans win. And that is not a progressive thing to do.
  • Another “not progressive” thing to do is to trash Democrats to the point that they end up being replaced by far right Republican lunatics. If you are one of those who likes to crow about “purging” Blue Dogs, you should know that you are responsible for income inequality, cuts in SNAP and other programs, you are responsible for preventing improvements to people’s lives and under no circumstances was “purging” blue dogs from Congress a net plus, which shouldn’t be a surprise because Blue Dogs represented conservative districts and were replaced by baggers.

I’m going to be writing about this a whole lot over the next year, and I don’t care who gets sick of it, because this election and the next 5-6 election cycles after it, are crucial, and Democrats have to win. The next president will get to replace at least three members of the Supreme Court, and the next three presidents will get to replace all of them. We cannot afford to put elections in a position where they can possibly steal it, because you know they will. And we need momentum.

Progressives managed to change the world between 1933 and 1972, precisely because we willingly and happily worked with Democrats. Now, years later, we act as if we can’t get anything done with Democrats, unless they think exactly like the farthest left progressives do, and that’s just ludicrous. We need to get smarter politically, and realize that winning elections is way more important than making sure candidates say the right things. Electing only candidates who say all the right things makes us losers, and the United States cannot afford a progressive movement that is made up of losers. There are two viable candidates in every election, and we have to make sure that the best of those two always wins. Unfortunately, given the state of the Republican Party, that always means voting for a Democrat. It doesn’t matter if that Democrat isn’t perfect; very few politicians are perfect. What matters is that we get people in their who will at least listen to what Americans other than right wing whack jobs, say.

It’s time to change the politics. It’s also time to pay attention. If you think there are any similarities whatsoever between the Democratic Party and the current state of the Republican Party, you’re not paying attention.


Getting Smarter About Politics — 1 Comment

  1. I agree with your observations, Milt. As an irrelevant sidebar, the wickedly doctrinaire LEFT should have paid serious attention to who gave the INVOCATION – Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop. His words were NOT televised, and that, not the selection of a conservative for the benediction, was a HUGE issue. Had we paid attention to the media’s bigotry rather than this president’s efforts to build bridges, we’d be a very different America. We’d probably have a public option and many other things – closing Gitmo – that were rendered utterly impossible by the “send the Dems a message, don’t vote 2010” mantra. Despite Dorothy Parker’s famous riposte, the Left IS its own worst enemy. The worry I have is that they love it – being the eternal victim without any consequence (trust funds intact) is becoming a political way of life for the Left that loves the, some rant but honestly cannot care about the long term consequences of RW dominance. They won’t (so far) pay the price. This president has done more to change America away from corporatism and toward serious democracy than any in my long lifetime. And because the glitter did not fly when he did everything he did, the Left cannot even see it.