Don't some of you ever wonder why we on the left side of the political divide have to scream so loud to be heard? Don't you wonder why, even in the face of our best efforts to change the political dynamic in this country, we seem to move further and further to the right, as a nation?
If you're not wondering that, you should. And before you look for someone to blame, especially "the media," you might want to look at our own backyard first. Have you looked at the "liberal blogosphere," as the very rich Arianna Huffington coined it? There's one culprit; even in the face of a right wing takeover of a major political party, they would still rather talk about Harry Reid's or President Obama's failures. For example, when complaining about Obama's use of drones, isn't the real problem that Bush didn't fulfill his initial mission after 9/11, to destroy those who had kill all of those innocent people? Bush left them to roam the world, and Obama's haing to clean up his mess. Why is that never mentioned? And when talking about filibuster reform, why do so many on the professional left forget to mention that filibuster reform is necessary because the Republican Party abuses the concept? This isn't Reid's fault, it's the GOP's, with a healthy assist from our professional left. So, what's the purpose for trashing Reid and Obama on this stuff?
Because it attracts attention. Because a lot of liberal "political junkies" seem able to recite chapter and verse about whatever the outrage of the day is, but don't seem to understand politics itself. Put those two together, and you get a ready audience for the type of claptrap, and they make a lot of money from you. Unfortunately, at the same time, the cacophony of loud and wrong that emanates from the far left blogosphere, and the progressive media in general, two things happen; people in the middle think we all think the same way and they think we're just as crazy as the idiots on the right, just from the left side.
Look, folks; politics happens every day, and it's ongoing. It's been ongoing for more than 400 years, and everything that is made to happen makes everything that comes after it possible. When you see a political "pundit" treating politics as if he or she was doing play-by-play for a football game, you should realize that most of them really have no idea how any of this works.
Keep in mind, I am talking about a small subset of liberals. Most actual liberals are very cool, and not very dumb, politically speaking. The people I am talking about are rarely poor, they have college educations, and they seem to think they know more about being poor or a minority than the poor and minorities do. And they are the reason the progressive movement has been stalled for more than 40 years. A small-but noisy minority within our movement is ruining it for the rest of us with their lack of knowledge of how politics works, and their inability to understand what actually moves the country forward.
But I'm a helper. It's time someone taught these folks how politics works. It's also not a bad idea for the rest of us to have an occasional refresher.
Some of this may seem remedial, but apparently, some on the left need this.
This is Politics 101:
Lesson #1: We live in a democratic republic. That means those who gets the most votes win and get to make policy.
Yes, I'm starting at the very bottom, but a number of far left political “experts” seem shocked and surprised when right wingers get elected and move the government to the right. I don't think I'll ever understand this. Ho can you possibly get upset at Harry Reid regarding the filibuster, when Republicans still have enough votes to filibuster everything. And let's face it; even if the filibuster was unavailable, we'd still have to deal with the Republican House. Our government runs on majority rule; those in the majority get to make the rules. If you want the government to do what progressives think needs to be done to help working people, the poor and downtrodden, you need to elect a majority. You also have to make sure that the candidate elected in as many districts as possible is the candidate most capable of listening to the people and giving them what they want, and to do as much as they can for them. That candidate won't always be a full-on progressive. It depends on the district. Some districts can elect progressives and some cannot, at least as of now.
Right now, we need to make sure Republicans are never in the majority. Then, we have to work on turning the populace to the left. That leads us to...
Lesson #2: To get a progressive government, you need a progressive populace.
This should have been a part of everyone's fourth grade civics class. Of course, I wonder how many people even take civics classes these days.
Since majority rules, to get progressive laws passed you need a progressive majority. To do that requires changing the hearts and minds of the people, not screaming at them and writing them off as “stupid” because they don’t think the way you do. Listen to them, then frame issues in a way that makes them want to be on our side. “Climate change” is an abstract concept to most people, and it's certainly not a "crisis." But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to drive a vehicle that's safe and also gets 200 miles per gallon, or one that is all electric, and uses no gas at all. Most people would gladly switch their electricity provider to a clean energy company, as long as the cost wasn't double. And everyone loves living in a clean place, breathing clean air and making a cleaner place for their kids.
We just have to talk about the issues in a way that makes the average voter feel good about the issues, and stop trying to scare them. You may think most people are motivated by a crisis, but you would be wrong. It’s this simple, folks. If you want the politics in this country to move left, you have to move the electorate left. You also need to know that such a thing doesn't happen overnight. The neocon era is 32 years old; it'll take a while to move those goalposts.
Which brings us to:
Lesson #3: Until there are 218 or more progressive districts in this country, ousting “Blue Dogs” is not a source of pride; it’s actually dumb.
As I said, after 32 years of neocon-driven politics, no one should be surprised that a large number of districts lean right. It's our job to move them left, and that won't happen overnight. Yet, for whatever reason, a number of “progressives” were actually gleeful at what they saw as a “silver lining” in the 2010 election results; that about half of the “Blue Dog” Democrats lost. They were HAPPY. I'm sorry, but this is clueless.
Nancy Pelosi was replaced by John Boehner, and the progressive Democrats committee Chairs all went from being towere all replaced by straight-up right wing Republicans. We went from having a House of Representatives that passed hundreds of relatively progressive bills to one that has repeatedly tried to kill Medicare and Obamacare and which wants to damage Social Security. Blue Dogs represented conservative districts, and they are a necessity because the country has been moving to the right for 32 years. We don't have 218 progressive districts. The House Progressive Caucus has 78 members; if we want Congress to do progressive things, those progressive will need 140 partners. And at this point in time, we don't have that many. We can, eventually, if we work to change the national mindset (see lesson #2), but as of now, we don't. And we don't have the luxury of time; we can't wait; we need to get rid of right wingers in government NOW.
Haven't we waited long enough? When you listen to many on the far left, especially the professional left, we hear that politics goes in cycles. Unfortunately, they also seem to think these cycles happen spontaneously. Nothing in politics happens spontaneously. And the cycles aren't usually as severe as the current "conservative" cycle we're in now. It's going to take a while to counter this one. We currently have a progressive movement that takes pride in removing a couple of dozen "Blue Dogs," even though they were replaced by teabaggers. Of course, a lot of their political ideas are silly, and not based in the real world. One of the silliest of these is the concept that both major parties are two sides of the same coin. And that leads to:
Lesson #4: No matter how many times some people repeat it, there is NO SIMILARITY between the two political parties at this point in time.
I stopped counting the number of "progressives" who make the claim that bother parties are essentally the same, and then demand that I defer to their intelligence. Many love to quote Harry Truman, who famously once said, “Given a choice between a Democrat who acts like a Republican or a Republican, the people will always choose the Republican."
That is catchy. The problem is, he said it in 1946. That quote should be collecting Social Security by now. I hate to break it to these people, but the Republican party has changed a lot since then. Back then, a majority within the two parties saw each other as “the loyal opposition.” Nowadays, the current incarnation of the Republican Party sees all Democrats and any reasonable Republican as “the enemy.” They've declared war on the poor, and will do everything they can to help the rich get richer. The current GOP happily puts party politics ahead of country, which is something most Republicans in Truman’s day rarely did.
If you are unable to see a difference between how Republicans and Democrats run things right now, you’re not paying attention. There isn't one single Republican who isn't worse than even the worst Blue Dog Democrat. It's not possible to even imagine Democrats proposing the elimination of Medicare and/or Obamacare, killing a highway bill that would create a million jobs, or cutting programs for the poor to pay for oil company subsidies. It's simply not realistic. Republicans have spent three years wanting to kill the modest Wall Street financial regulations, and want to take us back to the regulatory structure that damn near flattened our economy for good. They're actually actively
The differences between the two parties couldn’t be more stark these days, and to characterize them as the same is killing us, politically speaking. First off, it hurts our credibility, because it's demonstrably not true, and when they actually investigate and find out we lied to them, it kills our credibility. But doing so also constitutes a political faux pas, strategically speaking. I mean, swing voters hate right wingers as much as we do. Therefore, when you imply that Democrats and Republicans are the same, why would any of them vote? This allows the far right to continue winning elections. Which brings us to:
Lesson #5: Politics is a game of strategy. Issues are not "politics."
While it's important to get all of the right people elected, it can often be just as important to get the wrong people un-elected. That's because politics is a game. It's the method we use to get the right kind of governance, and it's the method we use to get a majority behind a great idea for policy. Politics is the tool we use to get to our goal, it's not the goal itself. Being in favor of reproductive choice is not politics. Politics is how you get politicians in place who can work to protect your reproductive choice. Note the difference; it's not really all that subtle, and it is incredibly important.
It simply doesn't matter what your position is on an issue. What matters is that you do everything possible to get there. THAT is the "politics." This a distinction that some progressives seem unable to grasp, which is why they vote for third party candidates with no chance of winning, and crow about their progressive chops for having done so. If you vote for someone who can't be elected and therefore can't actually make policy or law, your politics is actually not progressive. The root word of "progressive" is "progress," and you can't fix the welfare system or cut off subsidies to oil companies, or increase the minimum wage, if the candidate you voted for can't win.
Having the "right position" on an issue doesn't make you politically "progressive." Voting for someone who says all of the "right things" but who can't win doesn't make you a politically "progressive." As the word implies, what makes you politically "progressive" is reflective in the "progress you're willing to work to get and maintain. Getting 10% of what we want every election cycle is progress. Getting 0% of what we want because we are demanding 100% is not progress. Worse, what we're experiencing right now is essentially -10% every election cycle, because we're demanding 100%. Obviously, something needs to change.
Politics is about winning elections. That is the central focus. Signing petitions and protesting and making demands only makes a difference if the government we've installed is amenable to it. If you had a petition with 200 million signatures demanding an assault weapons ban, it still won't get through Congress, because the personnel in the current GOP House membership won't allow it to happen. Again; it's important, politically, to get the best people POSSIBLE into the government. In some cases, that means getting rid of bad people, and it means imperfection is likely. Imagine that. But it can't be emphasized enough that replacing Blue Dogs with teabaggers was not progressive, it was regressive.
Okay, so we've learned a few things. The main thing we should learn is that winning elections is the key to everything. In lessons 6 through 10, we'll learn how various strategies employed by the professional left are actually hurting us and the strategies we should be using to actually bring about progress.