(welcome Crooks & Liars readers! Thanks for dropping by)
This morning, I opened my email to find an urgent appeal from the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It reminded me, in stark terms, what this next election might be about: Democrats are defending 23 Senate seats in the 2012 race, Republicans are only defending 10. And as we’re all painfully aware, only four seats stand between the GOP and total control of congress, leaving a Presidential veto the only thing between the GOP and seeing their increasingly insane policy ideas enacted into law. It’s a huge, high-stakes election, no question whatsoever about it.
This is the letter I sent to them along with my contribution:
I just contributed $___ (see below for detail confirmation), and I wanted to drop a note with a brief exhortation on how to spend it – or, rather, how NOT to.
I contributed because you’re absolutely right, with today’s lunatic GOP, and with only four seats standing between them and complete control of congress (making the Presidential veto the only firewall), it’s a crucial time for the future of not just Democrats’ own electoral success, but the entire country’s fortunes. The voices of progress and fairness must not lose this one the way they lost the last one.
So here’s my exhortation: please, PLEASE, for the love of all that is holy, BE those voices of progress and fairness. Embody what this party has traditionally stood for. Stop embracing Wall Street and big corporations instead of unions and small businesses. Stop being scared of being loud and proud of traditional Democratic values. You can win on them, no matter what Karl Rove tries to make us all believe. What’s happening in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere should be telling you that, if nothing else has so far. Quit grooming, nominating, funding and electing the next generation of tepid, unreliable blue-dogs like “with us on everything but the war” (HA!) Joe Lieberman, or never-there-when-you-need-them-most corporatists like Ben Nelson or Evan Bayh. Just stop it. They’re. Not. Democrats. As we ALL saw during the President’s first term, just electing someone who’s willing to put the D after their name doesn’t mean that person is truly a Democrat, and it doesn’t mean you’ll have the votes you need when the rubber meets the road.
The 2010 elections is already widely described by virtually everyone including the President as having been a “shellacking” for Democrats. Why? Part of it was inevitable pendulum-swing. Part of it was the inevitable flood of negative and outright fictional advertising by the Republicans and affiliated groups. But that’s par for the course, and I know you expected those and (hopefully) were prepared for them. The other reason for the “shellacking,” the part that really hurt you (and us, out here in regular-citizen land), was that you all explicitly led people to hope for fundamental change in 2008, and then you spent the next two years offering tepid technocracy and concessions – especially in the Senate – to an opposition that clearly wanted not compromise, but to destroy you and replace your accomplishments and agenda with their own. Sure, you passed some big legislation, but by the time the GOP and the Blue Dogs got through with those bills, they were hardly recognizable as the reforms you set out to create. Worse, at every step along the way, you looked outmaneuvered by a party that was more out-of-power and discredited than at any time since the Johnson administration. You looked like you were barely hanging on by your fingernails and hoping nothing would go wrong, rather than looking like lions who’d just won the last two elections decisively and were damn well going to implement the people’s agenda and to hell with the tea-tantrumers. And it cost you – and us – dearly. Like any political junkie, I know what’s at stake. I voted in the last election. But as you’re all-too-aware by now, a lot of people who turned out in 2008 didn’t this time. It wasn’t that they voted for the GOP; they stayed home. Not because they were lazy, or they didn’t care, or even that they didn’t understand, but because they thought YOU didn’t. They didn’t see the kind of fight in their leaders they knew would be necessary to really effect the kind of change that candidate Obama talked about in 2008, which motivated so many in that election. Without evidence of that sort of willingness to stand up and fight, a lot of less-politically-inclined people simply lost whatever hope they had for real change back in 2008.
So this time, for heaven’s sake – no, for OUR sake – learn the lessons of both ’08 AND ’10. The CORRECT lessons: stand UP. Fight. Lose if you have to, as long as you go down swinging. The generations before us who built the unions and fought for transformational change like universal suffrage and the end of slavery weren’t willing to stay out all day on picket lines and face the truncheon on behalf of brokered compromise and technocracy. They were willing to do it because they had no choice, but also because they could see clearly that they had people in power who were their champions. We need that spirit again today. BE those champions. The people in Wisconsin and Indiana and elsewhere are standing up now because they’re beginning to be able to feel the blade against their necks again, in a way Americans haven’t felt it in decades. Most have never felt it in their lifetimes, although some of the older ones have. But don’t mistake this burst of renewed activism for any kind of sweeping endorsement of the strategies you pursued over the past two years. It isn’t. They’re doing it because they’re beginning to realize they have no choice: it’s that, or watch the country they thought was solid as a rock change perhaps permanently for the worse. Don’t let them go into that fight alone, worried that nobody out there in leadership or power truly represents them. Stand up. Fight from our shared principles that are the engine that created the most prosperous, well-educated and literate population on the planet once upon a time. Don’t compromise with bad ideas, defeat them. People rally to that kind of leadership – the kind that says “I welcome their hatred.” Be those leaders again. Please. The kind of leaders that people vote FOR, not the kind that people reluctantly use as a vote against something worse (or often, don’t), because no better choice is available. If you can do that, you’ll see another election like 2006 or 2008. If you don’t, I fear we’ll see another 2010.
Thank you for hearing me out.