The Commissar is voting Democratic this fall.
On the one hand, I’m not too impressed. It’s taken him long enough to realized that the Spoiled Child Presidency of GW Bush has been a catastrophe—the signs have all been there since before the 2000 election, and we moonbats have been called “Bush-haters” rather than perceptive.
On the other hand, I sympathize with something: the reluctance to support the Democratic party. While my contempt for Bush and the modern Republican agenda has grown, so has my disgust with the gutless, unprincipled Lords of the DNC. It’s hard to blame the Commissar for failing to see the flaws of our president when the opposition party has been so incompetent and so inarticulate that it has failed itself to express those problems and propose alternatives.
The Commissar won’t be alone. One of my staunchly Republican colleagues has a daughter who was in the page program. She confirmed the Foley situation to him (the pages knew the score) and he’s furious the with the GOP House leadership.
See my post at Foley Follies Roadshow.
Now all we need is for Democrats to begin abandoning the Democratic party, and maybe there will be some real hope for our government.
I don’t think it’s likely – I think it’s far more likely that the Democrats will begin moving to consolidate the power base I expect them to win in the next election, just as the Republicans did when they took control of Congress years ago.
No, the system won’t be quite as stupid and corrupt as it was in the Bush administration, but it will still be stupid and corrupt – just in new and exciting ways!
I think the key point is the failure to propose alternatives.
The problems with King Bush II’s reign are painfully obvious to all but the wilfully blind. The Democrats, from what I can tell, have failed to provide coherent policy alternatives. In fact, they haven’t even been consistent in holding BushCo to account for their actions.
Steve LaBonne says
The problem is that the hunger to return to office ASAP at any cost results in the willingness to tolerate the crypto-Republican likes of, say, Harold Ford Jr. as “Democrats”. Any majority obtained by a party with no coherent program will be ephemeral and will accomplish nothing during the short time that it exists. The Republicans didn’t start their current cycle of success until they had become ideologically coherent and disciplined, but this lesson still seems to be lost on the Dems.
corsair the rational pirate says
Despite being a right wing atheist Independent, I plan on voting against whoever is in power at the moment. If you have Incumbent after your name, you don’t get my vote.
That means I get to vote for Webb (and against Allen) and against Wolf (I am not sure who is running against him, but I don’t really care).
I have no problem with shaking things up. And if the winners of the upcoming race don’t perform to my expectations, I’ll vote against them the next time around. No one in government should think that their seat is safe at any time. I don’t understand how some places can send the same dweeb to Washington decade after decade without changes (happens on the right and the left). There is nothing wrong with a little new blood and plenty of nervousness by our public servants.
Count me somewhat among the Corsair school of voting. My goal is to use my vote, as small as it is, to split the powers between the right and the left, ensuring that neither of them will get every ill-conceived wish on their Christmas list.
In a perfect world, I’d be voting along Libertarian lines, except that (a) the Libertarians I see running for office tend to be, well, plain nuts, and (b) power corrupts and many wouldn’t be Libertarian for long.
Ah well, gridlock, then, is the order of the day.
Unfortunately we live in a two-party system. I’m holding my nose and voting straight Democratic. Lesser of two weevils, and all that.
Then as someone suggested in another post, pay attention to the primaries and start improving the Democratic party.
And I should add – vote like a grown-up. Look at policies and track record.
Toni Riga says
I know plenty of people who think the Republicans are doing a terrible job but can’t stomach voting Democrat. I can’t blame them too much based on some of the Democrats that make the ballot in our area.
I am also in the Corsair voting camp. Getting rid of all the incumbants would do a world of wonder for our government.
“Unfortunately we live in a two-party system. I’m holding my nose and voting straight Democratic. Lesser of two weevils, and all that.”
Voting for the lesser of two evils is plainly stupid. Why? Because you are voting for someone you acknowledge is evil! A choice between evil and evil is not a choice.
“Offer me alternatives, offer me solutions,
and I decline!
It’s the end of the world as we know it,
and I feel fine…”
– REM, The End of the World as We Know It
Steve LaBonne writes, “The Republicans didn’t start their current cycle of success until they had become ideologically coherent and disciplined.”
The problem is that ideological discipline only works when there is an ideology that adequately defines a base of support. With today’s Republicans, that is the Christian right. They comprise about 20% to 25% of the population, and because of their consistent showing at the polls, a somewhat greater proportion of the electorate. Depending on how they are defined and which studies, somewhere from 25% to 33%. That’s not a majority. But they provide a base that is consistent in choice and turnout. To win elections today, the GOP needs to attract only another 20% or so of the electorate. This can be from a menage of groups: old-fashioned conservatives who haven’t glommed onto the new nature of the GOP, fiscal conservatives who haven’t glommed onto the new nature of the GOP, independents who are torn between things they dislike in both parties, some fundamentalists from other religions, dry drunks who see a fellow in Bush, relatives of the candidates, and doddering aunts who like elephant figurines.
The question, for those who admire the GOP’s adherence to its ideological base, is whether there is a similar base for the Democratic party. Civil libertarians have long veered Democrat, and now many libertarians I know have started voting Democrat, because of the GOP’s clear anti-libertarian direction. But that’s not a base. The high-tech community is put off by the GOP’s war on science. This is true in business as well as academia: Governor Perry knows every time he addresses a high-tech consortium that he is speaking to a group who laughs at his right-wing religion, and who will largely vote against him. And of course, along with science comes concern with education generally. But is “pro- science & civil liberties” enough ideology to define a base? I wish it were. But I doubt it.
Some who want the Democratic Party to become more “ideologically disciplined” are socialist. But they are a small minority, and there is the problem that if that becomes the focus, then the party drives away many of the civil libertarians and high-tech community just described. The GOP today is less capitalist than it is pro-lobbyist. DeLay succeeded in the the K Street project. But the party’s rhetoric on this issue is good. It at least claims to understand the necessity of a healthy, capitalist economy, regardless of what it practices, and it gets great mileage by painting the Democratic Party as a bunch of socialists. That’s not true, of course. But that works at scaring some people into voting Republican. Add that to the odd-bag menagerie the GOP needs in addition to its base.
So, before you cry for ideological coherence and discipline, you need to explain what ideology you think would work for the Democrats, at defining a base, in the way “Christian right” has worked for the GOP.
Basic, Constitutionally-protected civil rights?
If habeas corpus isn’t enough to give the Democratic party a base, then the party should be destroyed. And the country along with it.
Steve LaBonne says
Russell, I think you’ve got it backwards. The Democratic base is the working class that’s in danger of being left behind by economic change. The Dems abandoned their base when they became addicted to corporate cash and went “neoliberal”. It should, for example, have been completely unimaginable for any Democrat to vote for an abortion like the bankruptcy bill.
The Democratic base is still potentially there; the party just has to stop screwing it over. Until he lost his mind over torture, Sherrod Brown was a good example of the right approach. He knows that the Ohio Dems pretty much abandoned declining industrial cities like his antive Mansfield, whereupon the voters deserted them.
Personally, I’m a big fan of divided government. The checks and balances work far better that way, and legislation has to have broadu bipartisan support to pass. Whenever one party controls both Houses of Congress for too long, it inevitably becomes corrupt, leading to the requirement for a housecleaning, particularly if the Executive Branch is also controlled by the same party. It happened in 1994, and we can only hope that it happens again in 2006.
As a followup to my previous message, let me explain why the Democratic Party is not evil.
Evil requires ideological coherence. The GOP is evil, because its religious right philosophy is coherent, incorrect, and dangerous to American liberty. Al Qaeda is evil because its religious right philosophy is coherent, incorrect, and drive its members to kill people.
But Democrats? The Democratic Party doesn’t have such a philosophy. It is an amalgam of all sorts of people, some of whom I described above. Some have views I don’t like. Some have views I share. But as LaBonne describes, it lack ideological coherence and discipline. Which are prerequisites for an organization to be truly evil. ;-)
No, it doesn’t. Ten thousand people, each with different ideologies and goals, can simply be evil in ten thousand different ways. People voted for the bill that abolished habeus corpus for a variety of reasons, yet all of their actions can reasonably be called ‘evil’.
(with nothing new to add, simply offers a big “thumbs up” to this thread, especially to Corsair)
I definitely agree with Orac. The primary goal in the near term for anyone who doesn’t like the direction we’ve taken in the past six years should be breaking the current Republican stranglehold. In a rather heated exchange this weekend, I chastised one of my “The Democrats are just as bad!” friends by saying that if the Democrats didn’t win in 2006, there probably wouldn’t be elections in 2008. Now, that’s an obvious hyperbole, even to me as the one who said it. But those are the kind of stakes we’re playing with here, and the recent torture bill should be a wake-up call. The first thing we need to do is stop things from getting any worse, and consider the way the American government works that means getting the Democrats in charge of Congress. Depressing, sure, but it’s our only option.
Now, in the future, I think anyone who disagrees with the Democrats but hates the Republicans ought to do what decrepitoldfool said. Join the Democratic party and vote in the primaries. Get as involved as possible. As Joe Lieberman’s solid trouncing last month showed, motivated and fed up voters can challenge conventional wisdom and alter the status quo. The corrupt, feckless Democrats out there can be replaced. The choice for November is now down to Democrat versus Republican, but American voters should never forget that they do have the power to choose what kind of Democrat they want. (Or what kind of Republican, for that matter.)
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that one of the big root causes for our nations ills is lack of participation by the common man in the governance of the political parties themselves. The historical reasons for this are pretty clear. In fact, I’d say that there’s nothing really new about the situation. The parties themselves have always been Ivory Towers to an extent, but that doesn’t mean they always have to be. Grass roots revolutions within existing parties are rare but not unprecedented. With modern communications technology, the common man can be more informed about in-party politics than ever before. So he should be, and he should get involved and work to change the party into something he’d rather see.
(And there are still a lot more Lieberclones out there, so there’s definitely still work to do!)
Steve LaBonne writes, “The Democratic base is the working class that’s in danger of being left behind by economic change.”
That assumes several things of which I’m skeptical. First, it assumes that “the working class” is a well-defined group. Second, it assumes that they have common political interests.
I’m quite suspicious. If you define working class broadly — everyone who works for their living — they have next to no political coherence today. Nor should they, necessarily. That worked some in the 19th centuries and early 20th centuries, when people worked for the same big company for decades, when some of those big companies even created company towns, when labor law was in its infancy, and so when the tension between The Company and The Worker defined a lot of political issues. But the economy and society are quite a bit different now. Qualitatively different: more distributed, more diverse, more dynamic. And it didn’t entirely work even then. Neither the Republican progressives nor the labor arm of the Democratic party ever made their political parties entirely about labor.
If you go the other direction and define working class narrowly enough that perhaps there are some common political interests, it becomes a pretty small faction. And even then, split by other interests. Consider that the religious right includes people at all socio-economic scales. You might want someone who works for a call center in Kansas to vote on the basis of his job. He views things differently, and votes on the basis of his religious beliefs. You lose.
Caledonian wrote, “People voted for the bill that abolished habeus corpus for a variety of reasons.”
The opposite is the case. That bill was almost wholy the result of a single, ideological party giving their president exactly what he wanted. Yes, there were some cross-over votes. There always are. But to point to the exception as explanatory is a fallacious recount of what happened. That bill is the paradigmatic example of a single, ideologically unified party swinging its arm.
Yes, you’ll find some cases where extraordinarily bad — or more likely, extraordinarily stupid — things are done by people who have no unified or conscious view of what they are doing. But political evil, along the lines of Al Qaeda or the GOP, usually requires something more.
Steve LaBonne says
Russell’s is a specious argument. The “religious right” isn’t such a well-defined group either when you look more closely. Such boundaries are always fuzzy and fluid. For the Democrats, you can certainly start the defining process with some no-brainers, such as the observation that a vote for the bankruptcy bill was a direct assault on pretty much all the kinds of people whose interests the Democratic Party should be representing.
Also, beliefs and political orientations are not static and fixed. You can reasonably hope to persuade more voters to sympathize with “liberal” positions- the Republicans did NOT just draw on a pre-existing body of “conservatives”, they expanded it and moved the whole political center of gravity well to the right. But before you have any chance of persuading anyone to give you a hearing you have to have convictions and the courage to stand by them.
I disagree with the notion that Democrats need to supply alternative plans to get elected. Alternative ideas and a commitment to undoing the damage the republicans have done is all that should be presented.
When Democrats do propose alternative plans, plans which will never be considered or voted one while the republicans control congress, the republicans use their very disciplined media machine to trivialize it and mock it. John Murtha’s plan for redeployment of troops in Iraq, which constitutes a plan as clear as any the administration has, was distorted into a “cut and run” strategy. And then he was attacked personally and they attempted to Swift Boat him. But according to the latest Woodward book General Abizaid is extremely close in agreement with Murtha’s plan.
This is the commander Bush put in charge of Iraq’s and the Persain Gulf’s forces.
When the media doesn’t question the Republican’s twisting of Murtha’s plan, one which Abizaid said was very workable even if not exactly what he would do, the what exactly is the point of presenting a plan?
All the democrats should do is state when they get into office, they will force oversight of the corrupt and off course administration.
Steve LaBonne, “But before you have any chance of persuading anyone to give you a hearing you have to have convictions and the courage to stand by them.”
Curiously, though, you haven’t tried to name a coherent political ideology in this thread, but only named a putative socio-economic class.
Steve LaBonne says
Setting a clear timetable for troop withdarawal from Iraq is not only the first step in any sane policy, it has been shown in poll after poll to be what the majority of the electorate wants. Why do you want the Dems to run away from this? Why should they yet again have to be dragged along by the public instead of leading? This is what leads to people becoming so disgusted that they just stay home in November.
Steve LaBonne says
The Republicans don’t have a detailed 17-point program for socal conservatism either, Russell, that’s not the way these things works. But something like this is a good start: http://www.alternet.org/story/17758/
I am interested in exactly how you define evil. If you ask the Christian Right I’m sure many of us would be considered evil. The same can be said for many other points of view and their antithesis as well. Noone considers their side to be the evil one but they sure do think of their opponents that way.
Also please note I am not the Commissar linked above.
I for one applaud the commissar.
Commissar, I know the Christian right views me as evil. I’m not a religious believer, so I’m pretty much the bottom of the barrel, as far as the religious right are concerned. That seems to be true of the religious right here in America, in Iran, and in Afghanistan.
I don’t return the favor of viewing them as evil merely because they believe. Deluded, yes. Evil, no. What makes them evil is that they want to turn their ancient religious scriptures into law that is enforced on me and on other non-believers. (That’s also why they get labelled the religious right as opposed to the religious liberal.)
There is no such thing as evil. It’s just a way for people to escape blame for the awfulness of our fellow humans. If we just label them evil, it allows us to avoid thinking that in similar circumstances one might make the same decisions (the Christian right’s use of evil), or otherwise attribute the rotten behavior of fellow humans to something superhuman and supernatural (like with Al Qaeda, Nazis), rather than face our own very real flaws (religious fundamentalism, racism, literalist beliefs, radicalism or just basic weakness).
quitter, I agree that there is no such thing as evil as the religious view it, as some sort of metaphysical category. But there is “religious fundamentalism, racism, literalist beliefs, radicalism.” There is, unfortunately, rather a lot of it. Yes, it is ordinary human behavior. I still oppose it.
They lie. Endlessly. If I knew any html I would post these things as one word links.
Steve LaBonne says
Steve_C, the normal href syntax for doing that doesn’t work properly around here anyway. Somebody once posted a workaround but stupidly I forgot to save it.
Then why call it evil then? Calling things evil to me always seems like a cop out. As if one is unwilling to accept that humans, like themselves, can do the truly awful things that we do. It’s like they just don’t want to look themselves in the mirror and see all of our own potential for hate and rotteness.
I think it’s more brave to say there is no such thing is evil. Humans are responsible for their actions, and the actions we ascribe evil to aren’t evil, just human. It’s better that way, because it brings home the idea that we need to be careful to evaluate our day-to-day actions, opinions, and reasoning becuase it’s incumbent on the individual not to do these rotten things. These behaviors aren’t external to humans or somehow forced upon us, which is what the terminology suggests, they are our actions, not the devil’s or whatever. Let’s own up to it.
“Evil,” like all words, has a range of meaning. While I agree completely that its use in the sense of something external to ourselves is myth, I would point out that it also has more prosaic uses, and I would dispute that purging our language of the word is going to eliminate the former myth. If I agree with you on the substance, perhaps you’ll forgive me for not being ready to leap on your linguistic rule.
I think you can say evil and mean very very bad. Nothing to do with a soul or satan.
Oh don’t worry, I wasn’t suggesting a rule per se. I was just wanted to make sure all these people getting into a debate on evil don’t really believe in the mythy type of evil. Sure, use it as a descriptor of human rottenness, but please don’t believe it really exists as some external force.
Just like when you say Bush is the devil or whatever, I get that most people mean he’s just a total asshole, but I worry that beyond being a bit hyperbolic, that it’s a bit of a cop-out description.
We need to urge all apathetic couch potato college kids (18-to-24 year-olds) to vote!
They get outvoted 2-to-1 by the 55+ crowd.
Out with the old fogies, in with the new!
Fucking hell… this was on the CBS Evening News.
Think they would let Dawkins or even Penn Jilette on to counter this crap?
Bill Dauphin says
Ten thousand people, each with different ideologies and goals, can simply be evil in ten thousand different ways.
Maybe, but ten or a hundred people acting in concert in support of a coherent, shared evil agenda can to far more damage than ten thousand disconnected individuals being evil in their own idiosyncratic, chaotic ways.
Joshua is absolutely correct in suggesting that this election — this one, not 2008 — may be our very last chance to stave off long-term right-wing hegemony. Esp. in the wake of the Foley scandal, if these guys can’t be beaten now, they can’t ever be beaten. With those stakes in mind, there are a few things I’m just sick to death of hearing:
1. “I’m voting against all incumbents.” This position implies that all incumbents are essentially equivalent, regardless of party, policy, or person. IMHO, taking this stance can only mean either that you’re too d@mn lazy to figure out who’s good and who’s bad, or that you actually believe all politicians are the same. If the latter, you’ve essentially given up on any hope that your vote will affect the governance of the nation, so why bother voting at all? And given that most of the non-incumbents running for Congress are politicians of some stripe themselves, the anti-incumbent position really boils down to saying that all politicians are equally bad, except that somehow inexperienced politicians are preferable to experienced ones. I ain’t buying that “logic.”
2. “I’m voting for the lesser of two evils.” A near-corollary to the above, this boils down to saying maybe all politicians aren’t all exactly the same, but they’re all more or less evil. Batpuckey! Politics is a rough game, and perhaps nobody gets through it entirely pristine (but then who among us is entirely pristine?), but many, if not most, politicians — including those who serve in the U.S. Congress — are honest, hard-working folks who are genuinely interested in serving their constituents and the larger public. I’m sure this is true even of the Republican rank-and-file. Folks, the enemy here is not “evil” politicians, but rather an evil, pernicious, repressive right-wing ideology and the leaders who are committed to making that ideology the permanent defining character of our nation. Anyone who opposes that agenda is de facto not “evil.”
3. “Democrats don’t have a plan; all they do is complain about Bush.” This one chaps my @ss the most. Three responses:  Plans are the province of those in charge. The opposition party can have goals, objectives, principles… but formulating and implementing “plans” is legislating, and that’s in the hands of the party in power.  You might not call it a plan, but the Democrats do have an agenda, and it’s not hard to figure out what it is: extricate us (somehow!) from Iraq; work to restore international partnerships; raise the minimum wage; repeal the Bush tax cuts (to the extent feasible) and replace them with a more balanced approach to taxation that favors the middle class and doesn’t “starve the beast”; balance the budget (closely related to the previous); repeal or repair No Child Left Behind; work toward universal health coverage; protect the environment (esp. WRT global climate change); develop alternative energy.  Complaining about Bush is “a feature, not a bug.” The policies of this administration and its minions in Congress are so dangerous to the future of the republic that opposing Bush is all the plan you need.
When your house is on fire, you don’t complain that the fire department doesn’t have a plan for redecorating the livingroom; you just want them to put the fire out. People, our national house is on fire, and at this moment in history, your Democratic candidates for House and Senate — whether incumbents, challengers, or running for open seats — are the only firefighters in sight! Let’s keep our collective eye on the ball, shall we, and save arguing over the reconstruction ’til 8 November.
Keith Douglas says
What of the large portion of those eligible to vote who don’t? I wonder what it would take to rouse them up …
But I still get a sad chuckle out of those who think of the Democrats as left wing …
Virginia Dutch says
What I see here is a lot of supposedly smart people outsmarting themselves out of doing the only thing that makes any sense. Get these idiots out of power by voting for the only possible alternative – the Democrats. Everyone who is disgusted by what Bush has wrought should vote straight Democratic tickets in every election for the foreseeable future. There’s a lot of damage to be undone, and we need checks and balances to have any chance of fixing it.
Don’t worry, Virginia. Most of us will go to the polls, on the second Tuesday, and vote. And if we don’t vote a perfectly straight Democratic ticket, it will be pretty near so. As much as most of us argue here, we aren’t the problem.
Steve LaBonne says
My ticket will be straight as an arrow (even Sherrod Brown, though that’s gonna be tough.) I just won’t vote for any Republican for the foreseeable future. That party has turned into simply a criminal gang, and I have no time for anybody who’s willing to be associated with it.
I might have to break ranks on Kerry, but otherwise I’ll end up voting straight Democrats next month. Especially since I actually genuinely like my House Rep. Plus, while I don’t know as much as I should about the Patrick/Healy race for Mass. Governor, I think I’m about ready to have this blue, blue state run by a Democrat. Maybe we can achieve some real social progress around here and further cement our “bulwark against theocratic insanity” status.
But Kerry… No, I can’t in good conscience vote for that guy. He’s the same as Lieberman, in my book. I didn’t vote in the primary, which I’m kinda kicking myself over, because I’ll take any chance I get to vote against him, not that it would have made a difference. I wrote in None of the Above two years ago, and I reckon I’ll probably do it again for Kerry. Although a Green-Rainbow senator would probably be interesting. ;P
Returning to Steve’s question, here is a quick thought on the Alternet list. First, I would support most of the policy prescriptions it makes. Second, I think the language stinks.
Let me expand my second comment. (1) It fails to state the importance of capitalism. That might seem a silly objection, since it proposes revisions to a capitalist economy, and so that is a tacit assumption. But in current American politics, this is quite important. The GOP makes great hay by painting the Democratic Party as socialist. That’s a pile of dung. But it is a pile that the Democrats further when they write about “progressive” economics without stating up front that a capitalist economy is essential to remaining a wealthy and technologically innovative nation. (2) It uses “corporate” only as a slur. As a liberal, I see nothing innately wrong with corporations, just as I see nothing innately wrong with unions. I do see how both forms of organization have been used unfairly. But that doesn’t mean I think either form of organization is bad, or should be turned into a slur. It does mean that I support various reforms to corporate governance. (3) Equity isn’t possible, and I oppose adopting principles that are impossible in principle. Opportunity is possible. Maintaining a floor is possible. But equity? Forget about it.
Thank you, Bill Dauphin!
Yes the house is on fire and the arsonists
are still on the scene with more incendiaries.
We need both fire and police ASAP.
Roy in Santa Clara
Voting straight Democratic.
Steve LaBonne says
I’m sorry, Russell, but I long since stopped being impressed by blather about the “importance of capitalism”. This country is so far to the right that it would have to move a long way left before there was any shred of a threat to capitalism. That’s simply a red herring. And cowering at the thought of being “smeared” with the S-word is every bit as craven and dumb and counterproductive as cowering at the thought of being labeled “soft on national security”.
It’s time to stop reacting to that crap and start acting on the behalf of the people our party has always held itself out as representing.
Steve LaBonne says
P.S. Equity does not mean some fantasy of making everybody economically equal. It means fairness, which includes equality of opportunity as well as enforcement of transparency and social responsitbility in corporate governance, a fair tax system, and access to basic necessities like decent health care. Giving people a fair deal is not only the right thing to do but, as Roosevelt understood, is essential to the long-term survival of capitalism.
What about wanting to attract voters? Is that “craven and dumb and counterproductive”?
Steve LaBonne says
I live in Ohio, a manufacturing state in deep economic trouble. The Democrats here demonstrably turned off many voters here by NOT hammering the economic issues I’m talking about. They said, “If the Dems don’t care about us why should we care about them?” Sherrod Brown is giving a well-liked incumbent a run for his money because he understands that. You’ve got things precisely backwards, in my opinion.
Red Green says
I’m voting Green party for every position I can, except Governor. I live in Michigan and there are too many kool-aid drinkers who think DeVos would be an awesome governor, so I’ll be voting for Granholm just to be safe.
corsair the rational pirate (love the name, BTW) said:
“I don’t understand how some places can send the same dweeb to Washington decade after decade without changes (happens on the right and the left). ”
Douglas adams sum sit all up here:
The Democratic party doesn’t have the slightest idea what voters want. They complain about the 2000 vote being split, but they don’t know the half of it. Every election we’ve had since I don’t even know when has been split three ways: Republican, Democrat, and Apathy. By the time candidates have gotten through the party primary process, it’s essentially guaranteed that most if not all voters in that party will vote for them. What determines an election is how many of the Apathetics a candidate can woo.
How is that accomplished? For starters, let’s look at what can’t accomplish that – negative campaigns. I don’t mean critical campaigns, or unpleasant campaigns, but defining ones position almost entirely by being against the other side. It’s as if the Republicans want to drive the car in a particular direction to reach a particular destination, and the Democrats want to drive as well – not in the direction and not to the destination of the Republicans. Where? It’s not clear, but not where the Repubs want to go, that’s for sure.
People vote their hopes more than their fears. People on rare occasions actually like to be told the truth, particularly when they’ve been hearing nothing but spin and propaganda for years on end. Democrats could talk about all of the serious sacrifices that will have to be made, sacrifices that in some senses are the worst of both worlds: higher taxes and cutbacks on social programs, but it will be necessary. They could talk about how the point of no return hasn’t been reached yet, and how America was once and can yet be a great nation. They could speak out in defense of our Constitution and our freedoms. People are afraid, and need to be offered realistic hope. In an uncertain period, actual policies need to be established and stuck by even if it offends some people (we need to leave Iraq after a brief period and let them work out their problems). And so on and so forth.
But what do they do? They find the blandest people who offend the fewest interest groups at the primary conventions, and expect them to attract Apathetics. Which they are almost antiqualified for.
Elections need to be more than two choices: Republican and Other.
David Harmon says
The big problem with the Democrats is simply that they’ve been beaten into submission. Every F-ing time they come up with a real leader, or someone who actually has a plan, the Rethuglicans gang up to assassinate his political career. I mean, that Dean Scream thing? Riight, whooping at a rally means he’s obviously totally unfit to lead the country — he might actually have gotten votes, and that couldn’t be allowed. The GOP simply has no intent of allowing any potential challenger through the gates, and until their power fails, they can continue to cull any Dem who shows promise.
Oh, and Caledonian — if you really can’t see a difference between the Dems and the GOP, then it’s time you headed for Canada (or Croatia, if you prefer).
Jonathan Badger says
There’s no more coherence to Republicans than there is to Democrats. Republicans include not only the Religious Right, but Libertarian Cato Institute types, the Cuban exile types, the protectionist business types, etc. Of course, you can say that all of those types are less attractive than Democratic types (and I’d agree with you), but the fact is there’s lots of types besides the Religious Right in the Republican party.
You’re not getting it. Both kinds of politicians engage in crude methods of applied psychology in order to acquire power. They use different strategies to appeal to different subgroups within the population, and one is somewhat better at harnessing people’s desires and fears. But the difference between them is quite small compared to the differences between political parties elsewhere in the world.
More to the point, being a Democrat does not automatically make a candidate suitable or qualified, and being a Republican doesn’t automatically disqualify one.
You people swallowed the Kool-Aid a long time ago. I hadn’t thought anything could prevent me from voting in the next Presidential election, but if the Democratic candidates are anything like what the people in these threads want them to be, I’ll stay home.
There’s no more coherence to Republicans than there is to Democrats. Republicans include not only the Religious Right, but Libertarian Cato Institute types, the Cuban exile types, the protectionist business types, etc.
And all of those “diverse” groups all amazingly find themselves on the same page when it comes to pandering to the Republican base (eg the Cato Institute’s support of Creationism and other anti-science) and the Religious Reich’s suport of such things as Global Warming denial.
Funny how they all seem to have the same play book.
Jonathan Badger writes, “Republicans include not only the Religious Right, but Libertarian Cato Institute types, the Cuban exile types, the protectionist business types, etc.”
These are the sundry others that have to be attracted to turn the base into a majority. But all these sundry others combined don’t add up to the base: the religious right. Numbers matter. Right now there is no other voting bloc as large and as cohesive as the right. Nationwide, they are estimated to account for about 25% of the vote. Obviously, much more in Utah, much less in Washington. But with that in the party’s pocket, the Republicans only have to attract one-third of the remaining electorate to win elections.
Two minor comments. (1) Libertarians have been fleeing the GOP, even as a better-of-two-evils alternative to the Democratic Party. There simply is no way to reconcile libertarian beliefs, of any variety, with the authoritarian desires of the religious right. As the GOP became more and more the party of the religious right, it becomes more and more repulsive to libertarians. No doubt, there are libertarians who vote Republican under the misperception that it is the party of Goldwater rather than of Santorum. That starts to overlap with another important category: those who vote Republican simply from habit and tradition. (2) Business protection is a bipartisan game. Sugar growers prefer the GOP. Hollywood prefers the Democratic Party. Personally, I think for-profit corporations should be forbidden from contributing to political campaigns or purposes. If it’s for business purposes, it distorts our democracy. If it’s not for business purposes, it is malfeasance to the shareholder.
Jonathan Badger says
That’s a huge oversimplication. Sure you can find creationists at Cato, but you can also find supporters of “Bionomics”, which is (despite being bad economics according to Paul Krugman, who ought to know), based on (pop) evolutionary theory. And for that matter not even all the Jesus freaks are anti-environmentalists. The “average Republican” is no more a real entity than the “average Democrat”.
I actually, uh… agree with Caledonian. I feel dirty. (Just kiddin’. ;P)
But, no. He’s right about the problem with the modern Democratic party. The top-level leadership is still in a mindset where they believe there is a fixednumber of “swing voters” who could go either way, and courting them is a matter of schmoozing up to them and telling them what they want to hear. If anything can be blamed on Clinton, it’s this. Whatever else he was, he was damned good at schmoozing the middle.
But those days are over, and the basis behind that strategy has been proven false in every election since 2000. (Arguably, in every election since 1994, when the Republicans won a Congressional majority.) The fact is, there is no such thing as the undecided swing voter. People have natural tendencies to one kind of political philosophy or another, and it’s very difficult to get them to completely switch from one to the other. In my opinion, the “swing” phenomenon was a statistical illusion. I would argue that, rather than having a stable set of voters who waffle between parties, you’ve got a silent majority with vague allegiance to one side or the other but who aren’t so sold on their favoured party that they run out and vote for them every chance they get.
The key is motivating the people that sit on your side of the fence. Or, as Caledonian put it, the Apathetics. You’ve got Apathetic Democrats and Apathetic Republicans out there, and what decides close elections is the degree to which each party can motivate its Apathetics to drop their ballot in the box. The Republicans have been very good at this, because they’ve been making the Republican issues seem urgent and important. The Democrats, conversely, have been playing the centrist game and pushing a “business as usual” sort of attitude, exemplified in Graham Diet candidates like Kerry and Lieberman. If anything, that demotivates the Apathetic voters.
The Democrats, if they want to get anywhere, need to energise their silent majority of Apathetic voters. This election, they should be following the lead of the liberal (I shudder to type this word) blogosphere in pushing the idea that the Republicans must be defeated in November and the Democrats are the best alternative. This will not work again in 2008, especially if the Democrats actually succeed this time around. In 2008, the Democrats will have to choose a coherent message to push and really work at getting people excited about it. The Alternet list is a pretty good starting point for this.
Ah, but I think there’s much more to it, Joshua: given that even the last election had a fairly low absolute turnout, compared to the total number of registered voters, it’s clear that there are a huge number of Unaligned Apathetics.
My educated guess is that most of them don’t perceive any particular difference between the two options available in most elections (which in most years is simply the truth, although the recent neoconservative takeover of the Republicans has changed this slightly) and don’t bother voting. The key is not to simply claiming that the Republicans are horrible, because since they’re not motivated to vote that doesn’t induce the Unaligned to vote Democratically.
Politics simply isn’t a straightforward binary system, and it’s not a matter of two extremes on a one-dimensional measure. “Not being Republican” is extraordinarily vague, but that seems to be all the Democrats define themselves as.
Given the vast numbers of troublesome developments in the past decade, the issues that politicians could pick as being part of a platform boggle the mind. The important part is to stir people’s hope and optimism, and do it honestly, while stating what needs to be done to fix our very real problems.
I don’t think any of them have the guts to do it, sadly. Nor do I think any will break away from the Democratic Party, no matter how much it needs to be done. If you can’t trim the deadwood from the tree, you remove the tree from the deadwood.
Bill Dauphin says
“The key is not to simply claiming that the Republicans are horrible, because since they’re not motivated to vote that doesn’t induce the Unaligned to vote Democratically.”
IMHO, the right message is not that “the Republicans are horrible,” but that “THE NATION IS IN TERRIBLE PERIL… because the Republicans are horrible.” It’s really not about winning an election; it’s about saving the fvcking country!
Bill Dauphin says
“…being a Democrat does not automatically make a candidate suitable or qualified, and being a Republican doesn’t automatically disqualify one.”
In general, I’d agree with this… but in this particular election, being a Republican automatically makes a candidate the tool of a malevolent right-wing leadership, and being a Democrat automatically makes a candidate the opponent of that regime, entirely irrespective of the candidates’ personal merits, by virtue of the simple addition of Rs and Ds. Vote for the better man or woman in the next election… but if you want to be confident there’ll be a next election (in any meaningful sense), this time you’ve got to vote to put out the fire.
(Sorry for the double post.)
Brian X says
It’s sort of like when David Duke got the Republican nomination for governor of Louisiana — they knew the Democrat was a corrupt snake, but anything was better than Duke. The slogan, I believe, was “Vote for the crook. It’s important.”
That was the slogan. Edwards, the crook, won. And under the circumstance, that not only was the better outcome, it was important.
We face a similar circumstance nationally. Dauphin is correct that any Republican today, no matter what their personal views, serves to strengthen the party of the religious right. Until the Republican Party has so tranformed itself that it can distance itself from the religious right, I plan not to vote for any Republican.
But that is precisely my point! We can’t have important ethical principles only when they’re easy – if you make exceptions when it’s convenient, you travel right down the slippery slope to where we are now. Republicans are no more ethical or moral than Democrats, but they publically claim steady principles. Democrats are leaves in the wind, free to be picked up – and that is one of the important reasons why Republicans are perceived as being stronger than Democrats.
Either it is important to vote for the most qualified candidate, or it isn’t. One’s party doesn’t become paramount in one election and irrelevant in another.
Caledonian asserts, “One’s party doesn’t become paramount in one election and irrelevant in another.”
Why not? You assert this as if it were somehow graven in stone. I think Brian X and Bill Dauphin have done a fine job explaining how elections and politics vary from time to time, and why parties sometimes are more important.
Bill Dauphin says
“We can’t have important ethical principles only when they’re easy”
So you don’t count survival as an “important ethical principle”? Kind of an odd stance, in a crowd of evolution fans. ;^)
“Republicans are no more ethical or moral than Democrats…”
If by this you mean that individual Repbulicans are no more or less likely to be ethical or moral than individual Democrats, I completely agree. But…
“…but they publically claim steady principles.”
…at the moment, the “steady principles” being pursued by the Republican party, as embodied by the Bush adminstration, the Republican leadership in Congress, and the party’s allies outside of government, include making senseless war, contempt for civil rights at home and human rights around the world, contempt for science, naked favoritism for the wealthiest among us at the cost of the health and welfare of the less fortunate, surrender of civil governance to religious special interests, and a drive to put all these policies permanently beyond the power of the voters to change. These “steady principles,” as I’ve said before, threaten the future of the republic in ways that it’s hard to imagine any individual’s personal failings could ever match.
And, despite your casual characterization of Democrats as “leaves in the wind,” they do have a consistent, broadly shared set of principles. Admittedly, they don’t hew to those principles with the same degree of ideological purity and message discipline as the Republicans, but (at the risk of repeating myself) that’s a feature, not a bug: Ideological purity is the hallmark of tyrants.
“Either it is important to vote for the most qualified candidate, or it isn’t.”
It isn’t. What’s important is to vote for the best outcome. Sometimes that means voting for the most qualified candidate; sometimes it means voting against an individual who is personally repugnant; and sometimes, as in this case, it means voting against an administration that is, in a very steady, principled way, trying to destroy our nation’s most cherished ideals. I’m not arguing that voters should be permanently loyal to the Democratic party; I’m arguing that voters in this election should vote to reject tyranny, regardless of their long-term party affiliation.
In some future election, conditions may be different, and so the voters’ imperatives may be different. I don’t think this is an unprincipled view. Rather, it’s a view that asserts the highest principle, vis a vis the exercise of the franchise, is to put the good of the nation first. I won’t apologize for taking that position.
Oh yes, the Republicans are committed to their principles: the principles of destroying democracy and subverting secularism!
Weren’t you the one who said on another thread that service is only as valuable as the thing you are serving? Can’t you apply the same logic to commitment? Commitment to evil is *clearly worse* than no commitment at all. The fact that the Republicans are uniformly, solidly, monolithically committed to hacking at the roots of democracy and freedom in this country is not exactly a selling point, in my opinion.
On the other hand, the extent of this party uniformity (and the likely consequences of it) *does* vary quite a bit from election to election. The Republicans’ disciplined commitment to neofascism actually is a relatively recent phenomenon. It may even be primarily post-9/11 opportunism.
If the Republicans ever nominated anyone who *did* substantially deviate from the party line, your argument might hold water. But they won’t run such a candidate this election, or any election soon. At most they’ll run a fake maverick like McCain, who talks about principles but then does whatever the party leadership demands. If they ever *did* run with someone like John Dean, who would actually stand up to the party leadership when he disagreed with them, they wouldn’t be the present-day Republican Party anymore anyway.
That, of course, is even if you accept the Republican point of view that the Democrats aren’t committed to anything. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t, but it might be wise not to forget that it’s their opponents’ characterization of them. Their systematically dishonest opponents’ characterization.
There are a lot of veterans with Ds next to their name this election season. Whatever your opinion of a decision to serve in the military, I think you have to admit that it indicates a pretty strong commitment to *something* – strong enough to risk your life for.
Maybe the “problem” is that different Democrats have different principles, and therefore they aren’t *monolithically* committed to much. (Although I think there’s quite a bit of consensus in the party, mainly it’s on things that weren’t until recently considered issues, like we shouldn’t imprison journalists for the content of stories they publish, or torture is bad, or we shouldn’t start any wars without a good reason that is not a lie.)
This is a problem? Different people having different opinions is *good* for a democracy. Then they argue about them, hopefully bring out evidence to support them, some people are convinced, and maybe a consensus is reached. It may be less emotionally stirring than “My way is Good and all others are Evil!” but it’s a proven better way to make decisions.
“in this particular election, being a Republican automatically makes a candidate the tool of a malevolent right-wing leadership”
Actually, this cuts to the heart of why the Republicans must lose their majority in Congress, even if the Democrats pose a crappy alternative. Republicans may individually be pretty decent guys and have their internal disagreements, but as a legislators they vote in fucking lock step. They forming a goddamned phalanx in Congress. Whenever the contentious issues come up, you almost never get Republican dissent. See the recent Torture/Habeas Corpus vote. One Senate Republican broke ranks. One. And that was not a unique case.
The decency and ethics of the Republican legislators are completely irrelevant. When it comes time to vote, Republicans vote with their party. Period. You can’t disagree with the Republican party’s policies but turn around and say that X Republican is not so bad, really, because X Republican votes with his party on everything that matters. The individual Republican legislators have become indistinguishable from their party.
“and being a Democrat automatically makes a candidate the opponent of that regime”
This is completely and totally not true. God, how I wish it were. But, this is something the Democrats have themselves to blame for. Fortunately, they did something about it when they voted out that reprehensible toadie Lieberman in the Connecticut primary. So there’s hope for them.
But this feeds into my previous statement about the Republican voting bloc. Democrats dissent. Not just from the regime but from their own party. This means that, unlike the Republican legislators who must be judged by their party, the Democrats can actually be taken on their own merits. This, if nothing else, is why the Democrats deserve to be in charge of Congress.
Bill Dauphin says
“and being a Democrat automatically makes a candidate the opponent of that regime”
This is completely and totally not true.
You didn’t quote the whole sentence; you left out the part about “entirely irrespective of the candidates’ personal merits, by virtue of the simple addition of Rs and Ds.” Speaking as a constituent of “that reprehensible toadie Lieberman,” I know exactly what you mean… but what’s at stake is control of the government, and if the price for wresting control from the current regime is suffering through a few DINOs like Lieberman, well, that’s a price I’m willing to pay. The Liebermans of the world can only suck up to the powers that be as long as they are the powers that be; I want to make them the powers that used to be.
Getting better Democrats in control of the government is Step 2; Step 1 is getting Dems in control in the first place. Step 1 comes before Step 2.
PS: I’m very proud to say that my teen daughter was a regular volunteer with the Lamont campaign this summer (her best school friend was a full-time intern), and I was a Lamont poll watcher on primary day. It’s not just rhetoric…. 8^)
Ah, but that’s really the problem with what some of you want the rest of us to do: have Democratic voters vote for their party, regardless of anything else.
If such behavior is grounds for running Republicans out of office, how exactly does it qualify you are competent, intelligent voters? I submit that it does exactly the opposite. The Democratic party, and the Republican party, have survived so long because they’ve managed to persuade people that those are the only two options – if you can’t stomach one, you must vote for the other. That kind of groupthink brought us right down the road to Hell, which we’re standing on the boundary of right now.
Joshua, I am generally quite impressed with your reasoning, but on this particular issue I think you are utterly wrong, and it will come back to haunt us.
Bill Dauphin says
“Ah, but that’s really the problem with what some of you want the rest of us to do: have Democratic voters vote for their party, regardless of anything else.”
I suggest you re-read the thread, carefully. If you think we’re copping a “my party, right or wrong” attitude, you’re just not paying attention.
If you think that’s what I think, you’re just not paying attention.
Some of you seem to be advocating a “if it has a (D) next to it, vote for it”. That attitude will ultimately destroy us.
Bill Dauphin says
“Some of you seem to be advocating a ‘if it has a (D) next to it, vote for it’. That attitude will ultimately destroy us.”
I think you’re mixing up strategy and tactics. You’re quite right that a long-term strategy of “if it has a (D) next to it, vote for it” might ultimately destroy us, but I’m not advocating that as a strategy… nor, AFAIK, is anyone else on “my side” of this discussion. My strategy is not blind loyalty to a particular party, but enlightened loyalty to the fundamental principles on which this once-and-future great country is founded. Right at this moment in history, that requires us to repel the would-be tyrants before it’s too late… and the only viable tactical approach to accomplishing that is “if it has a (D) next to it, vote for it.” Just this once.
Yes, of course, blind preference for party over principles or personal quality would ultimately destroy us. But the current regime will destroy us a Hell of a lot sooner than “ultimately,” unless we stop them. And make no mistake: On 7 November 2006, a vote for any House or Senate candidate who doesn’t have a (D) next to his/her name is a vote to leave the current b@st@rds in power, no matter how personally wonderful that candidate might be. (And don’t think you can finesse it by voting Green or Libertarian or Reform, either; even Michael Moore learned from that mistake.)
You should always vote your conscience… but this year your conscience should be telling you to save the republic by voting Democratic. And if is doesn’t…
“well, Hell, Jed; I don’t want to know you!”
(And now I’ve said the same thing in about as many different ways as I can think of, so I’m done.)
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