Why it Matters
I know there is a lot of frustration in the blogosphere right now because President Obama has not been kind to liberals and progressives. And I understand the frustration of it all too well. I still can't figure out why Axelrod and the President don't seem to understand how important their base is. But as C&L and many other sites wrote during the primary, Obama was never a progressive, but a moderate Democratic politician. I've been blogging for five years non-stop to move this country away from conservatism that has been the great destroyer of our society. Chris Hayes at The Nation has a great article up describing the mess that is our political system and what we face as progressives:
The corporatism on display in Washington is itself a symptom of a broader social illness that I noted above, a democracy that is pitched precariously on the tipping point of oligarchy. In an oligarchy, the only way to get change is to convince the oligarchs that it is in their interest--and increasingly, that's the only kind of change we can get.
In 1911 the German democratic socialist Robert Michels faced a similar problem, and it was the impetus for his classic book Political Parties. He was motivated by a simple question: why were parties of the left, those most ideologically committed to democracy and participation, as oligarchical in their functioning as the self-consciously elitist and aristocratic parties of the right?
Michels's answer was what he called "The Iron Law of Oligarchy." In order for any kind of party or, indeed, any institution with a democratic base to exist, it must have an organization that delegates tasks. As this bureaucratic structure develops, it invests a small group of people with enough power that they can then subvert the very mechanisms by which they can be held to account: the party press, party conventions and delegate votes. "It is organization which gives birth to the domination of the elected over the electors," he wrote, "of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy."
Michels recognized the challenge his work presented to his comrades on the left and viewed the task of democratic socialists as a kind of noble, endless, Sisyphean endeavor, which he described by invoking a German fable. In it, a dying peasant tells his sons that he has buried a treasure in their fields. "After the old man's death the sons dig everywhere in order to discover the treasure. They do not find it. But their indefatigable labor improves the soil and secures for them a comparative well-being."
"The treasure in the fable may well symbolize democracy," Michels wrote. "Democracy is a treasure which no one will ever discover by deliberate search. But in continuing our search, in laboring indefatigably to discover the undiscoverable, we shall perform a work which will have fertile results in the democratic sense."
It's indisputably true that the political system is run by wealthy plutocrats and much of what passes for democracy is kabuki. Same as it ever was, I'm afraid. But that's not exactly the point. It's still worth participating, doing what you can, containing the damage, stopping the bleeding, fighting the fight --- for its own sake. After all, history shows that humans have managed, somehow, to actually make progress over time. You just can't know what will make the difference.
There's an impulse to say screw it all and not show up anymore because "they're all the same," but I can't do that. For the most part, politicians will let us down because they are...well, politicians, but they aren't all the same. There have been plenty of books written about Florida in 2000. If ballots had been properly labeled so that voters who wanted Gore instead of Pat Buchanan could have done so, we might have had a more fair election. And then the Supreme Court would have been left to watch election night like the rest of us and Bush wouldn't have entered the White House in 2000.
Think of what that would have meant for the country:
- The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would never have been a reality.
- I doubt we would have had the attacks of 9/11 because President Clinton warned that the greatest threat America would face was terrorism and Gore would have not ignored him like Bush did. But if we did get attacked, then you can bet that Gore would have handled it as an adult. He wouldn't sought "revenge" against Saddam Hussein and prioritized control of all that oil. Gore wouldn't have let Osama Bin Laden get away and the world would still be sympathetic to us.
- Our efforts to put Afghanistan back together would be finished by now, assuming we even would have tried nation-building there.
- More troops and people would be alive and we would have exited the Middle East with our heads held high.
- America would never have invaded and occupied Iraq and over 4,000 troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians (if not millions) would be alive today.
- Abu Ghraib would never have happened.
- Terrorist recruitment would have stalled.
- Torture would not be part of the American lexicon and the likes of Dick Cheney and John Yoo would never have descended upon the offices of the VP and OLC.
- John Roberts and Sam Alito would not be on the Supreme Court and the makeup would probably be 6-3 against the radical Scalia-conservative agenda. A ruling on Citizens United is coming soon. Would the court ever have accepted that case? Not a chance and soon corporations will have a stranglehold on our election system much more than they have now.
- George Bush would have been back home in Texas leading the state into secession along with his pal Alberto Gonzalez.
- Nobody would have ever heard of Terry Schiavo.
- A much swifter and more effective response to Hurricane Katrina would have been implemented.
You get my point. These are but a few things that would have been different if conservatives didn't get their hands on the White House. Many of us are fighting for liberal and progressive values everyday and will continue to do so. But when our party fails us, I need to work harder to make sure the party stays on a liberal course, not throw up my hands and dismiss them as all the same.
And in the spirit of that though we need to hold the party establishment accountable. As Digby says there are a number of great progressive challengers already taking on DLC incumbents and we're going to send them a message that's loud and clear. Blue America PAC is already taking on this challenge.
Blue America has helpfully set up an Act Blue page with all the progressive challengers who have announced and we'll add to it as more come forward. We're calling it "Send The Democrats A Message They Can Understand."
If you want a Democratic scalp, these candidates are out there offering to do the work to get it done. And you won't be giving Adam Nagourney or Cokie Roberts or Glenn Beck what they want in the process. It's a win that even the villagers and the party establishment can't spin as good news for Republicans.
We'll be having on many progressive challengers in the coming months on C&L and they will be explaining why progressives need to be elected if we want things to change for the better. The new Blue America PAC Act Blue page is called:
Please join us.
- Jay Rosen
- skippy the bush kangaroo
- Liberal Catnip
- AOL Hot Seat
- left coaster
- The Talent Show
- democratic underground
- The Huffington Post
- Brad DeLong
- Mugsy's Rap Shet
- Vagabond Scholar
- Taylor Marsh
- Petrelis Files
- Glenn Greenwald
- Down with tyranny
- Lawyers, Guns & Money
- The Moderate Voice