( – promoted by buhdydharma )
Unless you’ve already voted, you have a decision that must be made by no later than November 2, 2010. Will you choose to exercise your right to vote?
Unless this writer has misjudged the mood of the Docudharma community, there seems to be a prevailing sentiment that the Democrats need to be taught a lesson. If enough of their supporters from 2006 and 2008 stay at home this time, perhaps they will learn a lesson. But the question must be asked, “What will that lesson be?”
Will the Democrats, soon to become a severely chastened minority party, move to the left to recapture the hearts and minds of those who have voluntarily surrendered their right to vote? Will they regard this portion of their electorate as fickle and unreliable, choosing to move further to the right, even further marginalizing the progressives, compensating for their losses by attempting to secure the support of those occupying that elusive “center” of the political continuum? The clear shift to the right under the influence of the deceptively named Tea Party by the Republicans has created a gaping vaccuum in the so-called “center.”
Will the Democrats perceive the stay-at-home progressives as an important constituency to be recaptured at all costs, or simply write them off as not worth the trouble? Even though abortions are still performed in this country, gay marriage is now legal in several states, we haven’t yet adopted a state religion, and a few civil rights still remain, the Republicans can rest easy knowing that the Right to Life movement, the Christian Right, the NRA and the libertarians will show up without fail. And they can still take this for granted even though much that was on these respective factions’ wish lists were not enacted, even with clear Republican majorities from January, 2003 through January, 2007.
The last two years have been terribly disappointing for those who expected so much more. Short of adopting the risky strategy of blowing up the filibuster in the Senate (after all, the Republicans could well have majorities in both houses and win the White House again in 2012), overcoming a filibuster required persuading likes of Joe Lieberman, Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh and their like to all jump on the bandwagon. Even one defection could sink an issue.
Robert Parry over at Consortium News ignited a firestorm by advancing a provocative argument that this writer has not seen on any other progressive websites. Are his views unique, or is he simply the only writer who has the courage to stake out a contrary and what has turned out to be a highly inflammatory position?
Parry’s October 15, 2010 article is entitled, “The Teach-the-Dems-a-Lesson Myth.”
Here are the three opening paragraphs of the article…
The thinking seems to be that the loss of the congressional majorities will punish the Democrats for accepting half-measures and compromises on issues from health care and financial reform to job stimulus and war. The Left’s hope apparently is that the chastened Democrats will then shift toward more progressive positions and be more assertive.
However, modern American political history tells us that this strategy never works. After the four key elections in which many progressives abandoned the governing Democrats – in 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 – not only did Republicans take U.S. politics further to the right, but the surviving Democrats tacked more to the center and grew more timid.
All four elections also were marred by GOP dirty tricks that drew little or no reaction from either the governing Democrats or the progressives, emboldening the slash-and-burn Republicans to operate in an ever more audacious style.
The section describing the 1968 election opens as follows…
Take, for instance, the pivotal election of 1968. The Left was furious with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam War and with the Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, for the bloody Chicago convention.
Many on the Left refused to support Humphrey, even though they knew that would help the election chances of the divisive and disreputable Richard Nixon. Some anti-war activists voted for minor third-party candidates while others simply sat out Election Day, allowing Nixon to win one of the closest elections in U.S. history by less than one percentage point.
And about Jimmy Carter’s bid for re-election in 1980…
However, whenever the Democrats were in power and had the potential to accomplish something meaningful, the split always reopened. The governing pragmatists sought incremental change in an often difficult political/media environment, while the idealists demanded sweeping reforms regardless of public resistance.
The division opened up during Jimmy Carter’s presidency when the Left viewed Carter as too centrist and too cautious, prompting a primary challenge from liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1980. Kennedy’s bid fell short but left behind deep antagonisms between the two wings of the Democratic Party.
Many progressives turned a deaf ear to Carter’s warnings about what Ronald Reagan’s election would do to the country. Some backed independent John Anderson or other minor candidates, and some simply didn’t vote.
The first two years of the Clinton administration begin with the following…
As Bill Clinton became the first Democratic president in a dozen years, the governing Democrats had high hopes that they could make progress on some difficult issues that had been ignored under Republican rule, including health care and environmental initiatives. The Democrats also moved to get the nation’s deficit under control, approving a modest rise in income tax rates.
Yet, for all the Clinton administration’s hopes for bipartisanship, the Democrats instead encountered near unanimous Republican opposition to every major initiative. Not a single GOP vote was cast in favor of Clinton’s budget in either the House or the Senate.
Instead, the Republicans relied on their expanding right-wing media, which had added powerful AM radio programming to an influential roster of newspapers, magazines and book publishing houses. Voices on the Right like Rush Limbaugh made every day a fiesta of Clinton bashing.
The following describes the leadup to what some have described as an election in 2000…
This widely held viewpoint fed into the notion on the Left that Bush would not be much different from Gore and that Election 2000, therefore, represented a good opportunity to “teach the Democrats a lesson” by showing them that they couldn’t “take the Left for granted.”
So, many progressives decided that they would back Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. To rally more support on the Left, Nader’s campaign touted what may be one of the biggest – and most dangerous – lies ever told in American politics, that “there’s not a dime worth of difference” between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Nader succeeded not only in siphoning off votes from Gore but his attacks on the Vice President – often echoing similar attack lines from the Republicans – frustrated the Gore campaign’s efforts to gain momentum.
About the 2010 election…
While many on the Left grumbled about Obama’s centrist approach, the Right sold millions of Americans on an entirely different narrative, that Obama was a closet socialist who was taking over the economy and wasting tax dollars on useless jobs programs.
Again, the Right’s media dominance, contrasted with the Left’s media weakness, has played a key role in convincing a large segment of the population that whatever slur is directed at Obama and the Democrats is true.
This media dynamic, combined with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling permitting unlimited corporate spending on political ads, has thrown the Democrats profoundly on the defensive, with many of them running away from their votes on health care and stimulus spending.
To compound this crisis facing the Democrats, many on the American Left have chosen this moment to repeat the experiences of 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 – determined to “teach the Democrats a lesson” by sitting out the election or voting for third parties.
And the following appears near the conclusion of the article…
Instead of the Left’s goal of pulling the governing Democrats and the American public to the left, the undeniable direction of U.S. politics (and media) has been to the right.
After 42 years, the Republicans are far more right-wing than Richard Nixon (and arguably even crazier), and most governing Democrats are far more centrist than the likes of Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Johnson and the old Democratic lions of that earlier era.
This writer does not intend to ignite a heated argument on this site. Some of us are well aware of how destructive the flame wars that infect other sites can be. That said, it may be well worth our time to consider Parry’s arguments.
If his premise that the strategy of Dems voters staying at home in 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 was counterproductive, then do we have good reason to believe that “this time will be different”?
Perhaps the Dems will lose horribly on November 2nd and take a sharp turn to the left. If so, will it be “too little, too late”? Or will they drift even further to the right, distancing themselves even further from the most passionate and perhaps temperamental segment of their constituency?
Sadly, it appears likely that we will soon have the opportunity to determine for ourselves if history will indeed repeat itself.