Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

6/13/2005

The Democratic Party

Kos's recent anti-feminist rhetoric has led to a bit of backlash against not only Kos and his site, but against the Democratic Party as a whole, which many feel doesn't place a priority on the concerns of women - especially, recently, abortion rights. Lauren at Feministe says "The Greens are looking really nice right now" and links to a post at Burningbird, who says that Kos's rude response to feminist concerns about an ad on his site

unleashed a backlash that equals any other that I’ve seen in weblogging, and one that doesn’t look to be going away, because it’s really not about Kos. Not anymore. It’s tapped a frustration among many who consider themselves part of a growing political progressive movement.

...I don’t care about Kos. I don’t find him particularly erudite or thoughtful in his writing; he has poor impulse control and is way too stuffed with his sense of his own importance. If this was about Kos, it wouldn’t interest me. But the focus on this discussion quickly went from Kos to the Democratic Party and even the progressive movement, and this does interest me.

...The game is rigged, so I’m picking up my marbles, and I’m going to find a different playing field, and different players. My most sincere thanks to the prominent Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian gentlemen bloggers for showing me the light.

As of last week, I am now an official member of the Green Party. At some point I realized that the only vote you throw away is the one that you cast because it’s the lesser of two evils. I will no longer compromise on full rights for gays, equal representation and application of the law for minorities, the environment, global health care, separation of church and state, corporate responsibility, and above all, women’s issues. But I won’t stop with being a passive member, I plan on becoming involved as deeply as I can with how this party is run. I am not going to let another political organization classify the concerns of half the population as a ‘bullet’ item in a preset agenda.


In my opinion, one of the most difficult issues for progressives/ leftists is how to feel about the Democratic Party. Despite the patently absurd claims of Republicans who claim the party is dominated by its 'radical fringe', the truth is that it is a rather conservative party, for the most part.

I've made a point recently of defending Howard Dean against his 'moderate' critics within the Democratic Party. One such post spawned a handful of interesting comments that touched on some of the most crucial issues for progressives. My post read, in part:

Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and most other establishment Democrats represent more of the same: more fear--fear of what the Republicans will say, fear of what the media say, fear of being called 'unhinged' by Michelle Malkin. Howard Dean, on the other hand, is fearless; he doesn't give a whit what Republicans think about him. Does this mean he will occasionally say something inopportune? Probably. But I'll take that any day over the tail-between-their-legs strategy favored by Biden and the other scaredy-'crats.

Brad (of The Unrepentant Individual) responded:

Dean is on the extreme wing of the Democratic party. That gets the hard left worked into a lather over each other, but doesn't do much for the centrists. Dean is a polarizing figure. Him being this far above the radar is a liability to you...

Matt H responded to Brad:

Dean, from an historical perspective, is anything but the 'extreme left wing' of the Democratic Party, unless this now falls into the extreme left of the party. If so, that makes me so far left as to fall off the face of the Earth.

Brad answered:

So what exactly are you saying? That Dean is a moderate? And maybe him spouting off these infantile shots at Republicans are just some machiavellian way to throw red meat to the left wing of the party?

If that's the case, you better tell Dada and the rest of the hard left, because they seem to think Dean's recent antics are representative of them and that the moderate Democrats who are worried about Dean are traitors to the cause.

These really are some tricky questions. Matt is right; Dean is not, by any reasonable standard, an extreme leftist, and if he were, I, too, would be 'so far left as to fall off the face of the Earth.' But Brad is also right: many progressives do see Dean as a rare ally within the Democratic Party. But if Matt is right, should we?

My response to Brad and Matt was:

There's no question that Dean was, as governor of Vermont, a moderate. He was definitely not on the 'hard left'. And he's not now on the hard left either.

However, he does, in a sense, represent the left wing of the Democratic Party. Keep in mind, though, that the Dem. Party is one that Brian Leiter recently and accurately characterized as being slightly to the right of the Nixon administration.

Also, while Dean himself isn't all that 'left', that doesn't mean he can't represent the left. For whatever reason, it was the left that Dean's candidacy connected with, and it is to the left that Dean owes everything he is now, basically. So the guy knows which side his bread is buttered on.

He may not be a natural, ideological lefty, but he does, for better or for worse, represent the left wing (such as it is) of the Democratic Party.

Now, this might cause some to come to the conclusion that the Democratic Party is unacceptably conservative - the same conclusion that the bloggers mentioned above seem to have come to (for different, though related, reasons). I can certainly sympathize with this response. There has to be some point where one says 'enough is enough', and it is up to each of us to determine for ourselves where that point is.

For the time being, I will continue to try to work within the Democratic Party - but I will not go so far as to call myself 'a Democrat'. I will not be a party loyalist; I will not be Kos. My support for the Democrats is 100% contingent upon them meeting certain standards - and they are already close to failing to do so. For instance, any compromise on abortion and I will turn my back on them, and I suspect I will not be alone.

It is not enough for the Democrats to simply be to the left of the GOP. For those who insist that abandoning the party is not an option because the Republicans are even worse, consider this thought experiment: suppose that the Dems evolve over the next decade to the point where their platform is exactly the same as that of the GOP - with the exception of a single issue (say, Social Security). On every other count, the two parties are identical. Would you still dismiss third parties? Would you still insist that we support the Dems, since, after all, they aren't quite as bad as the Republicans?

I assume you wouldn't. So enough with the 'lesser of two evils' rhetoric. That's not good enough.

For the moment, some Democrats are within the bounds of what I consider acceptable - but just barely. Any further movement to the right is out of the question. I tend to see the Democrats the way I see the UN: no great shakes, but for now, it's the best we've got.

So for now I try to straddle the realm of Democratic Party politics and that of true progressive politics. (This is why I simultaneously advocate socialism and support someone like Dean, who is clearly not a socialist, and whom I'd probably be an opponent of in a saner political climate.) Whether or not this is a tenable position to occupy ... well, I guess we'll see.

This is an area where I'm not all that sure of myself. Any feedback would be much appreciated - am I right to try to live in both these worlds?

Blogarama - The Blog Directory Sanity is not statistical.