The knashing of teeth has begun

I suppose it was inevitable.  It seems every time the Democrats let progressives down, you see the "I'm done with Democrats!" sentiment brought out in  full force.  Remember the FISA fiasco?  Man, you could really feel the outrage.

I'm not immune to the feeling.  No progressive alive who has been politically aware for any length of time has not felt the frustration of being "let down" by Democratic politicians.  I suppose the sting is all the more acute this time around, what with so many Dems in Congress and the White House and all.

The realities of how Congress works certainly do make for frustrating times.  Yes, the Dems have 60 votes in the Senate.  One defection, though, and they might as well have none, especially if GOP'ers really want to make trouble (kinda like they really, really do on the health care reform issue).  Hey, I'd love to see a Democratic Congress run roughshod over wingnut Congresspeople who have no business being within 1,000 miles of government.  But things can't really work that way, the identity of the majority leader notwithstanding.

OK, enough excuses.  I'm not going to pretend the Democrats in Congress have any good reason not to pass a decent health care bill.  But you know what?  Politicians, even the best ones, don't always do what they do for good reason.  And that's where we come in.

Yes, we.  You thought "we" were done after last November?  That we could go to our much-deserved rest, at peace now that evil had been vanquished forever?  Does the world ever work that way?

Milt has written about how liberals share significant blame for where we are now.  I agree.  While the Right Wing spent decades building coalitions, organizing and constructing multi-billion-dollar institutions designed to maximally influence political debate on every level and permanently change the way Americans see the world, many liberals did, indeed, take their balls and go home (pun intended).

Of course, the situation is changing.  Progressives have accomplished phenomenal things electorally in a few short years.  But the real fight that remains to be waged and won is the fight for the heart and mind of America.  It's a battle for "common sense" — for how the media reacts to issues, for how the average American thinks about things.

GOP politicians have been more successful that Democratic ones at maintaining solidarity and enacting an ideological agenda for several reasons.  One is that the politicians themselves are simply more ideological, and that has to do with the institutions and infrastructure conservatives have built that help get the people they want elected.  Another reason is the corrupt practices of people like Tom Delay (isn't he doing hard time yet??), using money to directly keep Congressmembers in line.

But it seems to me the big reason why GOP politicians seem to have more "spine" is that they have the consistent backing of their constituents, as well as a sympathetic media.  No, the constituents aren't always happy with them, and no, the media aren't always helpful.  But it's close enough.

If we want the "better" part of "more and better Democrats" to take shape, we're going to have to realize that the fight isn't done.  Winning elections is easy compared with making long-term changes to hearts and minds.  We have to continue to apply pressure to a traditional media that has spent decades being abused by the Right Wing, to the point that catering to wingnuts comes second nature.  And above all, we need to realize who the real enemy is.  Democrats are going to disappoint us.  If we want that to happen less, we need to realize that Democratic politicians are simply a tool.  If the tool isn't working, most likely there's a problem with the hand wielding it.

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