I Get Questionnaires

So, today, I got a welcome letter from the new communications director for the DNC, a Ms. Mo Elleithee. Not welcoming me, welcoming herself to the new position. I’d never heard of her, but I presume, to have landed such a job, she must have enough relevant history and done well enough at it to be competent at worst.

By way of introduction, Ms. Elleithee wanted me to answer a questionnaire which she said was designed to familiarize herself with the desires of the base, particularly regarding their opinions on how best to “fight back against Republican attacks.”

I often will take a pass on such appeals, since they’re usually little more than thinly-disguised front-ends for fundraising appeals, but something about the fact that this woman was new to the role and thus possibly didn’t have her ideas set in cement yet made me take the time to fill this one out. The questionnaire was short and punchy in that way that all web communication must now be, and contained mostly multiple-choice radio button-type questions. But there were a couple of text-input fields, too.

A couple of days previously, I’d read – and been disgusted by – this piece from Howie over at DownWithTyranny!, and it must have stuck with me, because this was my answer to Ms. Elleithee’s question: “what concerns you most about today’s Republican party?” I expect the following was a bit more response (ha! proudly resisting the tendency toward brevity in web communications!) than Ms. Elleithee was anticipating, but, well…I just couldn’t help myself:

Their ability to affect actual policy. I’m sure a lot of people will answer this question by mentioning this or that atrocious viewpoint held by this or that Republican (or by the party proper). I understand that impulse, but frankly, the loons have always been with us. There were the McCarthyites, then the Birchers, and now we have the tea party. It’s not as if much has changed in terms of their ideology.

What HAS changed is the degree to which the Republican party proper has allowed these loons a seat at the table. Heck, in many respects, the establishment GOP have granted the teahadisfs the seat at the HEAD of the table. That’s their concern and their choice, of course, but what it’s meant in practice is that the GOP has been moving steadily and severely rightward for, well…pretty much ever since the end of the Clinton era.

What THAT, in turn, means for those of us who aren’t part of the GOP, is that we need to abandon the urge to seek bipartisanship or cooperation with today’s GOP. They simply need to be defeated, repeatedly if necessary. Only in this way will the rest of us here in America be able to convince whatever moderates or wiser heads remain within the GOP that further lunacy (like, say, yet another defund-Obamacare vote) will only further marginalize their party, and that unless they moderate their increasing extremism, they risk becoming a permanent minority.

You asked me up above how enthusiastic I was, and I gave you only a so-so answer. This is due to the fact that the Democratic establishment appears to STILL have not learned this lesson I just described. President Obama spent the first two years of his first term (when he had the greatest goodwill from the electorate and public fatigue with Republican ideas, and was the strongest he’ll ever be in terms of support of a like-minded Congress) trying to transcend partisanship while simultaneously embracing it. The results were disastrous. Predictable, but disastrous. Although some good legislation was passed in those two years, including the PPACA, the wind was enough at the President’s back that so much more could have been accomplished, had the focus been on forging a new way instead of seeking GOP support.

By the time the 2010 midterms came along, a lot of young voters who cast their first, hopeful vote in 2008 for a guy they thought had THEIR back were disappointed enough that they didn’t even bother to show up for their local and state races. And the Republicans ran the table, very nearly, resulting in them getting to draw the redistricting maps that came out of the census results that year.

I know you know all this, but you asked me how enthusiastic I am, and what I worry most about regarding the current GOP. That’s it in a nutshell: I worry not so much that the GOP have become ever more extreme (though they certainly have), but that they’re still able to compete credibly on the national and statewide stage(s) with the kind of extremist rhetoric that would have made Reagan blanch. And the main reason they’re able to do so has more to do with the intermittency (some would say lack) of a compelling counter-narrative from the only other party that has serious national stature and is supposed to represent a very different – in many areas, even opposite – vision from the Republicans.

Harry Truman once said “given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.” It was true then, and it remains true today, which is why I get SO discouraged when, for example, I see the DCCC being chaired by a blue-dog corporatist like Steve Israel, whose goal appears to be to actively seek out and groom the most right-leaning Democrats he can find, to run against GOP nonentities like Bill Johnson. The DCCC tried to offer Garrison up in 2010, and apparently they’ll try again this cycle.

Why? Ohio’s 6th has a PVI of R+8! When a district’s that red, it’s probably going to go Republican. Trying to recruit a Democrat who’s anti-LGBT, anti-choice, anti-union, pro-coal, anti-worker in the hope that she’ll have a chance in a district like that won’t – per Truman’s dictum – actually cause enough GOP moderate defections to elect the “Dem.” What it WILL do – even if Garrison WINS – is so depress the actual Democrats in OH-6 that they may not show up for critical races like, say, the next Presidential cycle. You remember the one in 2000, right? Where we lost by 537 votes in the entire state of Florida? When 537 votes can determine an entire national election, I’d say decisions like Israel’s to re-submit Garrison for the consideration of the Buckeye state’s voters is colossally tin-eared — not to mention dangerous.

So when you ask me how enthusiastic I am, that’s the answer. I’m sorry it couldn’t have been more brief, but there are a lot of moving parts to the situation, and thus, to my answer. I remain deeply committed to the ideals and the values the Democratic party has always claimed to stand for. Things like a living wage, non-discrimination, broadly shared prosperity at home and a vigilant but peaceful stance abroad: these things matter to me, and to a lot of other Democrats still out here. But they REALLY matter, they’re not just slogans to be hauled out when the cameras appear. So when I see single-payer advocates being excluded from the critical debates over health care, and when I see the representatives of the party you ask my enthusiasm for actively grooming Republicans-in-all-but-name like Jennifer Garrison, well, my feelings are decidedly mixed.

To put it as bluntly and as clearly as I can: support is a two-way street. Almost exactly five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the bursting of the housing bubble dragged our nation perilously close to a second great depression, too many people are still hurting. They’re still looking for government to lead the way out of the morass, because they know that although business is important, it’s not enough by itself to provide the necessary leadership or progress. And they’re aware that no one was held accountable for that crisis. That many of the problems which led to the crisis remain or have even gotten worse. Banks are actually larger than they were in 2008. Derivatives remain largely unregulated. People may not know all the details, but they get the gist. So, while progress like the ACA has a positive effect that people can recognize and support, people also expect more of the party that gave us the Wagner Act, the WPA and the Glass-Steagall Act.

Let’s BE that party again — the time is right for it. To the degree that we are, that’s the degree of my enthusiasm. To the degree we’re NOT, that’s how much I worry about the Republican party.

Here’s hoping someone at least reads it.