Destroying The Party To Save It

I applaud Markos for being patient enough to stand by the Democratic party and encourage people to not drop out of the political process, but when is enough enough? At what point do you say “screw it” and come to the conclusion that the people in Washington don’t represent your core values? You know the Democratic party is in a sad state of affairs when a post encouraging people to stick by the party ends like this :

Democrats think “looking strong” means bombing Iraq or Iran, when “looking strong” really means standing for something because you believe in it, even if you might not think it’s the smartest political play. Whimpering every time Rove says “boo!” is not strength. Caving in to the administration is not strength. Surrendering what should be core beliefs because of political expediency is not strength.

Update: Rereading this, I don’t think I was clear on this point — please do put pressure on Democrats to do the right thing. On torture or whatever. Please get angry when they fail us and core American values.

Why should we continue to put pressure on politicians to do something that would come as second nature to any decent person? What does it say about our leaders if we have to beg them to oppose torture? If the Democrats aren’t willing to risk their careers for a higher principle like preserving the right of habeas corpus or protecting the separation of powers, isn’t it reasonable to conclude that they don’t feel strongly about these issues and probably shouldn’t be representing us?

I’m not ready to abandon the Democratic party, but I’m ready to make my protests against their lack of action mean something. Over the weekend, I wrote a pair of posts at the Huffington Post that pissed a lot of people off for saying, essentially, “Don’t Vote Democrat”. In it, I advocated voting against every incumbent, regardless of party, under the theory that starting Congress over with a blank slate would be better than the corporate whores and lapdogs that we’ve got now. Although it was more of an intellectual exercise designed to provoke discussion, my essential point was this :

If you’re willing to vote Democratic every election no matter what’s going on because they’re always better than the Republicans, then you’re just helping reinforce the cowardice that’s plagued the party for well over a decade now.

The biggest flaw in the blogosphere’s enthusiasm for the prospect of the Democrats taking over the House and/or Senate is the notion that the Democrats are suddenly going to grow a spine. It’s not gonna happen. Do you really think they’ll view as a mandate their change from a slight minority party to a slight majority party the way the GOP has arrogantly asserted with their recent electoral wins? Investigations, subpoena power, etc. sound awesome, but we’re talking about the same people who we have to beg to oppose torture.

It’s not enough for Democratic politicians to do the right thing after being hounded. We deserve leaders who have well-tuned moral compasses and don’t need to be reminded the difference between right and wrong. But these cozy, beltway incumbents are the ones who are going to be running the committees, who will be practically unstoppable in future primaries, and whose fetishes for centrism will have them all waiting in line just for the privilege of getting to co-sponsor draconian legislation with St. McCain. Crashing the gates is a great goal, but at a certain point you might need to just tear down the whole damn fence and build a new one.

Which is not to discount the hard work of the netroots. Ned Lamont, Jon Tester, and Jim Webb (among many, many others) are doing great work to shake up the status quo and deserve all the support you can give them, but I’m not willing to do thing to support the politically and morally tone-deaf Democratic incumbents who take the support of their base for granted. If you’re not willing to stand for something as basic as human rights, then why should we stand for you? Is it really worth all this effort to replace people who support torture with people who tolerate torture? Either way we’re stuck with a lawless President who gets to do anything he wants.

Are you willing to risk losing another election in order to rid the Democratic party of cowards and fools? Hell, I’m a Democrat. At this point, I’m used to going to bed on election night depressed. So I don’t take it for granted that the Democratic party is going to win in November. Unlike many of my friends on the left, I’m not afraid of losing this election. My big fear this election season isn’t that the Republicans keep control of the House and Senate, but that the Democrats win and do nothing.