Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Atrios posted this yesterday in response to the elections in Spain:

Sadly the only real option people have when things suck is to vote the current bastards out. They did it in the UK, they'll do it in Spain, etc. I doubt most people voting on that basis expect that conservatives will be better, though the LibDems basically said fuck you to all the people who voted for them, but I don't blame people for chucking Labour out or, frankly, the House Dems in 2010.

Perhaps if there was political party which would campaign on making peoples' lives better, instead of actively rooting for more suffering, this dynamic would change.

Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn't it? A lot of us feel hope at times regarding the Democrats -- and yet at this moment, just as we're feeling pleased that Democrats seem to be united around defending Medicare, just as a Democrat scored an upset electoral victory precisely on that issue, this happens:

... ABC News was behind the scenes with ... Wisconsin Congressman [Paul Ryan] ... when he got some words of encouragement none other than former President Bill Clinton.

"So anyway, I told them before you got here, I said I'm glad we won this race in New York," Clinton told Ryan, when the two met backstage at a forum on the national debt held by the Pete Peterson Foundation. But he added, "I hope Democrats don't use this as an excuse to do nothing."

... Clinton told Ryan that if he ever wanted to talk about it, he should "give me a call." Ryan said he would.

So we have this from a Democrat. We have Democrat Steny Hoyer in the House threatening to put Medicare on the table in budget negotiations. And in a different budget fight, for those of us in New York State, there's our Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo -- the guy we voted for instead of Carl Palladino -- trying to turn New York into Howard Jarvis's California:

...Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders said Tuesday that they had agreed to place a 2 percent limit on property tax increases in a plan that rivals the toughest such measures in the nation.

... The tax-cap agreement was welcomed by business and farm groups, but teachers' unions reacted with dismay, saying the move would cause cuts to money for education and would diminish the quality of public schools. The unions pointed to California as an example, saying a property tax cap and broader budget woes have had a harmful effect on schools in that state....

(And don't get me started on President Obama and his utter failure to provide relief to people with troubled mortgages.)

Democrats, in short, are with us some of the time -- and at other times they betray us. I wish it were as simple as "there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties," because that's not true. On the other hand, it's also not true that the Democrats are simply on our side.

So it's disheartening when Atrios says, "Sadly the only real option people have when things suck is to vote the current bastards out." In favor of whom? Other bastards? Bastards who may or may be less bastard-like? That's it? That's our only option?


The best hope ordinary people have would come from engaging in fights that are issue-based, not campaign-based. I thought about that while watching "Freedom Riders" on PBS last week. The civil rights movement wasn't built on the hope that electing certain candidates would get its goals accomplished. Nor was it built on the hope that primarying the bastards who let the movement down was the key. The people who fought for civil rights fought for civil rights. They backed some candidates, and sometimes worked with elected officials, but primarily they just kept pressing their demands, on their timetable -- which didn't coincide with an electoral timetable.

I'm also thinking about one of the few progressive movements of my adult life that seem somewhat successful -- the gay rights movement. Straight acceptance of gay people and their goals has a way to go, but there have been real advances -- and that wasn't inevitable, especially given the AIDS epidemic, as a result of which there was actual talk in polite circle of tattooing and quarantining as public health measures. Again, how did it happen? It happened because gay rights groups did stuff. The movement wasn't hitched to the electoral calendar.

I still support voting for Democrats. I just don't support counting on them -- even the best of them -- to solve our problems. Some will sell us out. Some will sell us out some of the time. But meanwhile, we have to do stuff. We have to fight for what we need and not assume that if we elect the right people, we'll win. It doesn't work that way.

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