This is the first, of what I hope will be many posts, by one of our members, William.
Calling All Democrats
I am a Democrat. It is certainly not that I agree with everything every Democratic officeholder says and does. I never have. But we have two major political parties in this country. For all intents and purposes, we have a two-party system. This is not going to be changing. Either the Democrats win, or the Republicans win. Sometimes, as in the 2000 Presidential election, some very foolish Democrats get the idea to cast a vote for an outlier like Ralph Nader, and thus allow the Republicans to win an election that they could not have otherwise won. It is a zero-sum game in this country’s political process, and an intelligent person will realize it, even if he or she might wish it were otherwise.
My parents were lifelong Democrats, and we were all proud of being so. We would watch the Democratic conventions together. Of course, there were some Democrats we liked much more than others. Back then, there were actually some decent Republicans. There are virtually no decent Republicans holding major office now. The Republican Party has completely turned into what years ago used to be considered the fringe wing of that party. They are all John Birch Society types now. It would be funny if it weren’t so horrifying. They all say the same things. They all vote in lockstep. They try to destroy the legislative chances of any Democratic President by filibustering every single significant bill; by holding up virtually all judiciary appointees. It has appeared to many of us that the Republicans would rather have the economy completely fall apart, rather than compromise on anything. They are far more about winning their battles than in accomplishing anything. Of course, when you believe in total laissez-faire economics, you may not want to accomplish anything legislatively: pass no regulations; let the “markets” work their own mischief.
It is to the point that we cannot allow any Republican to win the Presidency. One figures that they will have to at some point, and that could be ruinous. Their policies are so extreme that they might destroy us. Seeing what some governors like Scott Walker have attempted, in a formerly liberal state like Wisconsin, should terrify people. He has tried to destroy labor unions in his state. He is engaged in attempting to remove every single bit of environmental legislation. How he gets away with this is almost beyond comprehension. It must be that people don’t listen, don’t follow, or somehow believe the inane platitudes that all of this will help them get jobs, or win some kind of culture war. Get someone like that, or Jeb Bush, who ran Florida almost fascistically, according to a long article in a major magazine years ago, and heaven help us all.
Now, as I went along through college and grad school, and various arenas where i would encounter presumably intelligent and educated people, I met many who, when I said I was a Democrat, would tell me that they were independent. They would say it rather superciliously, as if they were claiming to have reached a higher plateau of personal development. “I vote for the man, not the party,” some of them would say; as if this showed that they were discerning, as opposed to someone who identified himself as a Democrat. Of course, they were arrogantly nonsensical. If you can show me a Republican on the national scene whom you would actually want to vote for over a Democrat, I would say that you are not too interested in actual issues and their implications. I don’t like all of the Democrats, personally or politically. But I darn well know that the Democrats are far better for this country, so I vote for them. Maybe in two hundred years, the Republican party will come to its senses, and then we can vote for a few of them. I’m not holding my breath.
The reality is that the Republicans play the political game better than the Democrats, for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, they don’t win the presidency all the time. But they are now in firm control of both houses of Congress. They control most of the state legislatures, some of which are denuded of Democrats. They have controlled the Supreme Court for about 25 years. The Democratic party is not that far away from being reduced to a permanent minority party, at least on the state and congressional level. As long as the Citizens United decision stands (and it would take a much different Supreme Court to overturn it; the chances of three-quarters of the states ratifying a constitutional amendement against it are essentially zero), it is a perfect circular game for them. Billions of dollars from corporate polluters and ravagers wins elections; the elected serve their corporate masters who make even more billions, which is poured into more elections. And the media, also corporate owned, of course, become ever more supportive of the radical right billionaires, insuring even more election victories. It is a dire situation; not unchangeable, but in increasing danger of becoming so.
So that brings us to Hillary Clinton, apparently the only remaining major Democratic force who both cares about the future of the Democratic Party, and has plans to make it viable in the long term. The current President, for whatever reasons, has been running away from the Democratic Party for eight years. And so, not surprisingly, he has been less than valueless in midterm elections, where apparently the norm now is that we lose 50-60 congressional seats, at least five Senate seats, and a few more state legislatures. Other than saying “we got shellacked,” he does not seem to have much concern about this, or any idea of how to do anything about it. And no one else but Hillary Clinton seems to, either.
Guess what? You cannot effectively run a country as President if the Congress is overwhelmingly against you, and uses every technique to thwart every bill and appointee. This is not some fantasy TV series or movie; this is political reality. Americans have for too long entertained this fantasy of the “outsider,” the brave man or woman who comes to Washington and changes everything through the force of his magnetism. I would think that the last eight years would have shown the utter folly of that concept, but apparently not. Maybe some people are so inherently bitter or contemptuous that they have given up all hope of fixing or even helping things; they just want to waste their time on tearing people down, and lamenting how rigged eveything is, and how it really doesn’t matter, anyway. Well, I think it matters; and I am totally sick of the people who self-indulgently try to get winnable Democrats defeated, or who keep playing their childish game of looking for some projective comic book hero to save us all.
Now consider the overwhelmingly positive attributes of Hillary Clinton. Not only is she a solid old-time New Deal Democrat, she also has the will and the competency to get things done. Of course she is not perfect; no one outside of a TV show character could be. But she is very smart, very dedicated; and any reasonable Democrat would have to agree with her stands on at least 95% of the issues. But even putting all of that aside for just the purposes of this essay, she actually cares about the Democratic Party. In a recent speech in Iowa, she said the following: She wants to communicate “the importance of midterms, strengthen state parties, and spend the next 10 years building a deep bench of young people” in the Democratic Party, who “will not just complain” about problems, but will get into politics and fix them.
She said, “Here’s one of the differences between our party and the other party: They know the importance of midterm elections. Because they show up and we don’t.” She further said, I am going to be the kind of President who will keep talking to the American people about the importance of showing up in the midterm elections. Otherwise, we will go backward.”
Well, this seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Except that when is the last time you heard something like this from a Democrat? Have you not seen public figure after public figure shrink from being too closely identified with the party?Have you seen any major Democrat talk about “the other side,” as if being a Democrat mattered? Have you heard anyone talk about the need to defeat the Republican candidates and agenda; that to actually do anything significant; to save this country, the Republicans have to be defeated, the way they regularly are defeating the Democrats every midterm election?
She may not be able to accomplish it, but she is really going to try. And who else is left to try? Bernie Sanders, who doesn’t even identify himself as a Democrat; who to my knowlege has never campaigned outside his state for any Democratic candidate? That should not even be worthy of consideration. If Sanders somehow got the nomination, he would win about seven states, and the Democrats would end up with about 120 seats in the House, 40 or so in the Senate; and the Supreme Court would be ultraconservative for another 30 years at least, because three or so Justices would retire, and be replaced by young corporatist right-wing radicals. On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton is elected President, she will not only be able to change the Supreme Court balance, but she is going to work to actually strengthen the Democratic Party at the statewide level, so that it somehow might be able to battle the Republican money machine on even terms. She is not going to concede the country to the evil forces, she is going to try to defeat them. And yet some people cavil and hesitate about supporting her for President? This is about the equivalent of being out in the desert, and trying to find reasons not to drink the bottle of cool, pure water you are being offered, because you think you might somehow find another one of a better brand somewhere out there in the mirage. If you are a real Democrat, and not just a professional carper, the choice to support Hillary Clinton in this campaign is as clear as you are ever going to get in any election. How about us Democrats taking advantage of it, for just once?