That danged exasperating caution

I’m feeling a bit peevish about the Democrats right now. I got some email from people promoting Gary Hart, mentioning that he is berating congressional Democrats for failing to stand up against the administration.

There is integrity, there is conviction, and there is courage. History’s jury will sit in judgment today on those Democrats and will find wanting those without the conviction and courage to say “enough”.

I’m sensing a pattern here. Democrats run for president as cautious cowards who avoid standing up for progressive policies, they get mauled by the media anyway, they lose, and then afterwards they bravely lecture everyone else about integrity, conviction, and courage. And, sad to say, TBogg is seeing the same signs of timidity in Barack Obama.

I would buy Obama’s deference to leaders in the Democratic party if I felt that were any leaders in the Democratic party (Anyone? Anyone?) but he doesn’t seem to want to fill the void and so we end up with a bland parsing pol who spends all of his time trying to not leave anything distinctive on his permanent record…and we already have an Evan Bayh. Personally I’m tired of Democrats who are obsessed with process and talking about how they need to get their message out. There comes a time to decide what you stand for…and then stand for it.

Amen. And the time to decide what you stand for is not after you lose the election.


  1. bernarda says

    Unfortunately, far too true. As Michael Moore said, to paraphrase, liberals are wimps and losers, even when they win, they lose.

    Gore and then Kerry should have been dirtier than the Rethuglicans in their campaigns. There is a ditty from the 19th century, “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Washington before you.”

  2. paulsamuel says

    The practicality of the issue is important. To get campaign money, Sen. Obama needs to pander to the Democrat leaders.

    This issue can become moot if the campaigns were financed publicly with tax dollars (which would merely cost each taxpayer $6/year).

  3. roystgnr says

    This issue can become moot if the campaigns were financed publicly with tax dollars (which would merely cost each taxpayer $6/year).

    Do we give equal public financing to every campaign? If so, that $6/year will grow quickly, as Republicrat spending gets matched by the Libertarians, the Greens, the Reform Party, the Constitution Party, the Communist Party, and so on and so on until my new “Roy Likes To Hear His Ads On TV” party is incorporated.

    Or do we pick and choose which campaigns get financed, based on criteria like past popularity? It’s bad enough when the two-party system is an unintended consequence of plurality voting; we don’t need to make things worse by writing it into new law.

  4. mjfgates says

    The practicality of the issue is important. To get campaign money, Sen. Obama needs to pander to the Democrat leaders.

    Or he could pander to the netroots instead… people have been raising astonishing amounts of money lately, just by promising to do what people actually want done, and putting out a tip jar.

  5. Spike says


    That would be a “litmus test” for a true Libertarian: They would not accept public extortion money for their campaign.

    So if we went to compulsory funding of campaigns (or should I say, “more explicit compulsory funding of campaigns) and made private donations illegal, then the Libertarians would be out the the picture.

    Getting back (somewhat) to the theme of this post: Why don’t we see any true “left-wing” or liberal candidates? It seems the Democrats have merely become the caricature that the neo-cons make them out to be.

  6. Unstable Isotope says

    I think Atrios said it best – Democrats should stop saying “we should do better” and do better! I’m tired of hearing them excuse themselves and make vague promises of tomorrow. I realize change takes time, but I wish it would hurry up.

  7. sixteenwords says

    On the positive side, you are probably no more exasperated with the Democrats than many Democrats are with scientists who begin statements by saying they usually stay away from politics and then demand political action of some form or another.

    I used to want to scream back, pitch in or stop wondering why nobody understands the absolute criticality of your issue… Anymore I just understand it to be human nature and I let it pass.

    If Democrats were a thing, rather than a collection of people with different desires, motivations and outlooks I’d wonder what it is with them; but they aren’t. Democrats is just a collection of interests, like scientists.

    I wish they were more committed to the things I think are most important, but I also wish all scientists were as engaged as PZ Myers is.

  8. univac says

    Roy & Spike:

    Public financing is very simple, and does not need to be compulsory. It’s already working in Arizona and Maine, and will be on the ballot in California in November. That’s not to mention the many local races where it’s already in place (e.g. Connecticut judicial races) or will be implemented soon (e.g. Los Angeles city elections).

    Check it out here:

  9. says

    roystgnr: Here in Canada, parties are funded based on past performance, even if they fail to elect any MPs. (For example, the Green Party had 5% of the popular vote or something and so has quite a bit of money for a party that has never been elected to parliament.)

    Spike: Indeed. The Democrats would be a Conservative party in most of Western Europe or Canada. How to get a true leftist party back in the running in the US is a tremendous bootstrapping problem. All I can suggest is start small, and be patient, and learn from past successes. For example, I seem to remember that early in the 20th century and late 19th there was a lot of labour organization and so on, even in the United States.

  10. David Harmon says

    Try considering the situation from an evolutionary perspective! The Rethuglicans have been targeting the Democratic leaders, and especially the younger ones, for decades (while their elders are dying off). The Dems have developed an institutional “learned helplessness”….

  11. Loren Petrich says

    I’m sorry if I seem like a broken record on this issue, but public financing is simply not enough. One needs reforms in the voting system to enable third parties to flourish.

    Check out Wikipedia’s article on voting systems for starters.

    Here in the US, the most commonly-used system is plurality voting or first-past-the-post, which makes people fear wasting votes on candidates unlikely to win. So they vote for whichever of the two biggest candidates seems the lesser of two evils.

    There are a variety of alternatives, like approval voting (vote for more than one candidate; the votes are then counted in the usual way), preference voting (rank the candidates by preference, then find an overall preference ranking), proportional representation, etc. Using these will produce much less fear of wasting one’s vote, because if one’s favorite candidate doesn’t win, one’s next-favorite candidate may still win.