Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Playing To Win Versus Not Having To

There's been a lot of kvetching and moaning about "Why Progressives Can't Get Anything Done" and the answer is simple.  Progressives play to win an election.  Wingers play to not have to worry about themBooMan speaks the truth today.  Progressive failure is structural.

I stopped being very idealistic when I finally got around to making myself understand our system of government. I don't get disappointed by a whole lot because my expectations are so low. I see a real threat out there. I see a threat to our way of life and to all humanity, and it stares me in the face every single day. That threat isn't coming from Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. It's coming from the other side of the aisle. And insofar as the Democrats are failing to meet the challenge (and they are failing) the real culprit is deep and structural and ingrained in our system and in our laws.

You may have noticed that the right is engaged in this fight on a structural level. They go after the people who register voters. They pass laws making it harder to vote. They attack the unions. They attack MoveOn.org. They go after anyone in the media, be it Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Phil Donahue, or Dan Rather who expresses any skepticism about the right. They built their own cable news station and took over the radio spectrum. They make it so corporations can give unlimited money anonymously. They are coming after us with real aggression, trying to make it impossible for even middle-of-the-road Bill Clinton-style Democrats to get elected in this country. If we want to defend ourselves and ever see real progressive change in this country, we have to fight on this structural stuff. In the meantime, we're playing defense. And we can't do much more than that.

So, I'm obviously troubled and concerned about our country and the future, but I am pretty clear-sighted about what our limitations are and why we have to settle for so little. Our problems are not one man's fault. One man cannot fix them. But we also need to remember that we have one man standing between where we are now and an immeasurably worse situation. I think about that every day, too. 

We considered ourselves lucky in 1992 and 2008.  Both of those wins were followed by the House going back to the Republicans two years later and a government shutdown in the case of 1995.  Let's keep in mind that while Clinton was re-elected in 1996, and the American people hated Newt Gingrich at the time, the Republicans kept the House for another dozen years and they patiently waited until they had the whole ball of wax during Bush's first term to really push the structural stuff.

I poke fun at the Tea Party and the Republicans all the time.  It's a coping mechanism.  It doesn't mean they don't frighten the hell out of me.  Right now the Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure they will basically always win future elections.  The Democrats do not have that level of organization, media reach, or power at the state level that the Republicans have now and will continue to have for a very long time.  They've spent 30 years doing it and now it's finally paying off.

Now they have a chance to put us away for good, with Voter ID laws that seek to disenfranchise minorities and the poor, with redistricting that will maintain Republican power at the state level, even in states that are growing due to increased minority populations.  They have a chance to force structural, long-term changes in the federal budget to rearrange social safety net programs.  They are not playing for 2012.  They are playing for 2012 through 2042.

If anything, the lesson for progressives in the last two years is this:  you can't get anything truly progressive done in just two friggin years.  And since Obama took office, the progressives that have failed to figure that out are trying to do everything they can to take down the man standing between us and the tsunami of red state corporate fascism.  The last 30 years is not the fault of Barack Obama.

It's the fault of letting the Republicans have their way for the last three decades.  America pushed back a bit in 2008, and it was only because Obama played the corporate game even better than the Republicans did, because as an African-American he had to.  Some see him as a sellout.  I see him as the guy fighting fire with the necessary application of better fire.  Yes, Obama's playing their game, because it's the only game in town right now.  The GOP shifted to taking over the states instead and 2010 was a landslide for them.

Progressives showed they can fight back in states like Wisconsin and Indiana too.  That's what we need to do in all 50 states.  That's where the real fight is, not Washington, not at FOX News HQ, not on the AM dial, but your city council, your county commission, your school board, your statehouse.

We spent everything on one hell of a free agent in 2006-2008.  Republicans went out and got themselves an entire farm system instead.  Structural.  And the Republicans are literally killing us at it.

[UPDATE]  Taylor Marsh beautifully, spectacularly, and most eloquently misses the entire damn point.

These types of Democrats and progressives are willing to continue to enable the Democratic establishment, while propping up Pres. Obama to win a second term, even though he no longer represents the interests of the middle class or the poor, let alone progressives, which he was never going to do. I told you that years ago, while Obama loyalists said simply “he’s the one.” Now they’re saying, “he’s still the one,” even with proof he isn’t, which I warned he never would be.

And yet, not once does she voice a valid, electable, realistic alternative to Obama.  The problem is not Obama.  The problem is the political system that made Obama the lesser of a whole hell of a lot of evils.  Replacing Obama with somebody who will do exactly what Obama was forced to do by the system over the last two years is not the solution.  The solution is to change the system.  One election will not do this, just like one baseball game out of 162 won't win you the season.  Abandoning Obama, allowing the Republicans to take over, and then screaming and gnashing our teeth isn't the answer.  The 2008 election wasn't the end, it was the beginning, and we have a long way to go.

You can give up.  Back Kucinich or Nader or Hillary.   Split the party, weaken it more, but remember that the basic Democratic principles you bemoan also including hanging in on the long term fight, and not stabbing ourselves in the back.

This short view of Obama as the "biggest problem" progressives face is idiotic to the point of dismissal.  You ask at the end what the Tea Party would do?  Take over at the local level, rebuild the party base state by state, capture state after state, win redistricting battles, control state cabinet offices like AGs and Secretaries of State, build a wide selection of candidates, leverage that into congressional victories in the House and Senate...and then worry about the White House.

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