Political Flavors

On Being Held Hostage By The Democratic Party

Posted in Editorials on September 10th, 2012

Our affable captors.

I listened to Sam Seder’s interview with Jill Stein. And while I think she sidestepped his questions about the strategic reasons a person might hesitate to vote Green, what jumped out at me was that she said the Democratic party is unsalvageable. Even though I have a lot of ambivalence about President Obama, it makes me uneasy to say the the Democratic party as a whole is beyond repair.

A friend of mine involved in Occupy once suggested that the reason I feel this way is because of my efforts in local Democratic politics. That might be true. I have spent a lot of time, money and shoeleather volunteering for Democrats. I’ve made some great friends and learned a lot. To abandon the party now, when it includes people like Tony Avella, and Sandra Fluke feels wrong.

If I did leave, where would I go? The Green Party seems like the obvious answer. I did vote Green for NYC Mayor in 2009, and I was voting for Bill Talen, not against Thompson or Bloomberg. Listening to Jill Stein was kind of anticlimactic. She couldn’t answer Sam Seder’s questions about his concerns that promoting the Green Party would elevate the Republican Party. She said that Obama is a hypnotic orator, which has weird and racist undertones. I think that Sam Seder was right when he said that the liberals were co-opted by anti-Bush organizing during the Bush administration, and that we only have the Occupy Movement because we now have Democrats in office who we can try to persuade. Voting for her would seem more like a vote against Obama than one for her.

Yes, she voted for the Iraq War and he signed DOMA and made life shittier for poor people and called it “Welfare Reform” (which included the beginning of federally funded abstinence only sex education, btw) but they are so DAMN ADORABLE!!

I was mulling this over in my head and I thought about groups like the Sierra Club and the AFL-CIO. They have even less of a choice than individual voters. Obama hasn’t delivered much of anything on environmental policy, and has failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. But environmental and labor groups must continue to endorse Democrats. Republicans would be actively destructive to those causes, and these groups would lose access and power if they endorsed a 3rd party candidate.

This was underscored when the Sierra Club tweeted the praises of Obama’s speech to the DNC, even though he was talking about “clean coal” and making what some say were references to increasing fracking (he said we should use more natural gas).

But as I tweeted, I know why they said this. President Obama needs to win Pennsylvania and Ohio, so he must speak favorably of coal. He uses the false frame of “clean coal” because most Americans don’t know that that’s greenwashing. The Sierra Club has no choice but to ignore what they clearly know to be bad policy. They either fall in line and endorse him or get left behind.

This weighed heavily on me as I watched the rest of his speech. As soon as I saw through what was behind the President’s mention of clean coal, it was difficult for me to focus. I did appreciate his vision of an America where everyone is equal and free:

If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.

If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.

If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

It was as if he was drawing a line in the sand, and I resent that. President Obama expects us to believe in the facade of “clean coal” even though he must know that a pursuit of it would be counterproductive to his stated desire to combat climate change. And yet, here he was saying really moving things about freedom, justice and equality. It’s quite disorienting.

I have long said that I am not disappointed with President Obama because when I voted for him I knew that I was voting for a centrist and not a Liberal. I thought that I could deal with his pie in the sky bipartisan ideas, and I am glad to see that much of this year’s DNC was about drawing contrasts between the parties and calling out obstructionism. I’m not the only Liberal with a deep ambivalence for President Obama. But politics is as they say, the art of the possible.

There are those who wear their self righteous indignation with President Obama and the Democratic party like a badge of honor. I think that we should ask questions of our leaders. But we won’t get answers if we play games and grandstand. There are outlets other than politics for people enraged by the United States human rights violations of the 21st century. The prison reform movement and Amnesty International come to mind. But while the tactics used in the video did get a lot of page-views, did they effect policy? Did they inspire anyone to run for office or make a donation or write a letter? Was anything changed, even to the level of an individual’s opinion?

What it comes down to is that the Obama Administration has a tangible list of accomplishments that have real positive impacts on the lives of people. This cannot be ignored.

It’s easy to resent the Democrats for not doing what I want them to do. It’s even easier to resent them for being what I believe to be my only option. But I take full responsibility for my own role in the process. I write to my representatives, and I support candidates who really, really get it. There are two ways out of this hostage crisis. One is to work harder. The other is to give up.

6 Responses to “On Being Held Hostage By The Democratic Party”

  1. Lina Says:

    If you are free to leave, then you are not being held hostage.

  2. int_argc Says:

    If you miss the point hard enough, Lina, do you come back around to the other side and get it?

  3. hsextant Says:

    Jeopardy Question:

    For $2000 under “Presidents” What American car helped George W. Bush
    get elected in 2000?

    What is the Corvair Alec.

    Corvair enthusiasts “likely didn’t vote for Ralph Nader when he ran
    for president, at age sixty-six, in the year 2000. He got 95,000 votes
    in the state of Florida, which George W. Bush won by about 1,800 votes.
    Bush lost the national popular vote to Al Gore but prevailed in the
    Electoral College, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his tissue-thin
    victory in Florida. Had Nader not been on the ballot, Gore surely would
    have gotten most of his votes. And had it not been for the Corvair,
    Nader wouldn’t have been on the ballot. Thirty years after its demise,
    Ed Cole’s flawed car was still shaping American life. It can safely be
    said, at any speed, that the Chevy Corvair’s legacy helped make George
    W. Bush president of the United States.”

    Ingrassia, Paul (2012-05-01). Engines of Change (Kindle Locations
    2425-2431). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

    Unfortunately, politics is generally the art of choosing the lesser of two evils. While there is a certain satisfaction for voting for a third dark horse candidate that may appeal strongly to one’s ideals, if the candidate has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, that well reasoned and satisfying vote is then essentially cast for the worst of two evils.

  4. Frank Lee Says:

    Dr. Stein didn’t sidestep anything. There’s nothing strategic about using one’s vote to endorse four more years of the status-quo.

    What do you mean by “people like Tony Avella and Sandra Fluke”? Fluke is nobody in the party — merely someone being used to highlight the only arguable and significant difference between the major parties. It’s a social wedge issue being used to keep the bases emotionally stirred up.

    Avella is merely one state legislator. He is an exception, not the rule. The mere presence of a handful of good Democratic officials is insignificant as to what the direction of the party is. That was proven regarding Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. Dennis Kucinich. And they have been defeated. Despite having a committed national following, Kucinich was treated as an outcast in Congress, even being the target of profane excoriations from other members of the House Democratic Caucus. The media went out of their way to make a mockery of him and most citizens who admitted he was the best choice for president didn’t have the courage of their convictions to support him.

    “She said that Obama is a hypnotic orator, which has weird and racist undertones.”

    I call on you to back up such a serious accusation, especially considering how often Obama’s supporters have dismissed criticism of his policies by raving about what a “great speaker” he is. If you want to play this game, let’s talk about the racism of this administration’s decision to support, both with federal money and verbal praise, the NYPD program to spy on innocent Americans of Arab descent.

    Which Democrats in office can be persuaded? Persuaded to do what? Do you have evidence of this? Why shouldn’t we vote against Obama? His administration is a nightmare, and I say this for reasons to which you have still not responded under your entry about Debbie’s Deception.

    “these groups would lose access and power if they endorsed a 3rd party candidate”

    Considering that the Democratic Party is doing nothing for them now, what “power” do these groups have in it at present? Endorsing a third-party candidate would give these groups much more leverage because it would show that they cannot be taken for granted. It’s the same reason why individuals should vote for the third-party candidates they deem best, because it’s not only about who wins a given election. It’s also about influencing the major parties. Having a psychology degree, you should know the result of rewarding bad behavior.

    “President Obama needs to win Pennsylvania and Ohio, so he must speak favorably of coal.”

    What is this obsession Obama’s supporters have with protecting his political career? Government officials are supposed to be mere servants. The government is supposed to protect us, not vice-versa.

    “‘If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.'”

    You have to be kidding. The gap between rich and poor is at a record high in this country and Obama’s answer to it is more tax cuts for the rich, more tax cuts for corporations, more free trade agreements, more deregulation of Wall Street, forcing Americans under the grip of private insurance companies, feeding the prison-industrial complex, sidestepping the war over union rights, etc.

    “‘If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.'”

    To suggest that Obama is not in the pocket of wealthy special interests is an insult to your readers. Geithner and Holder are creatures of Wall Street, you even used to call Biden “the credit card slave,” federal prosecution of financial fraud is the lowest it has been in a generation, large tax subsidies to huge banks and corporations continue, unnecessary war from which private contractors profit continues, etc.

    As for the rest of that excerpt, it may sound great, but Obama has had four years to pursue this “vision,” including time with a 60-vote Democratic Senate majority and a Democratic House. And what have we gotten?

    Obama has no desire to combat climate change. He brags about opening up record amounts of territory to oil drilling. This is why Dr. Stein is right about him being a hypnotic orator. He has convinced people to believe his words over his record, to trust a campaigning politician rather than trust their own eyes.

    We don’t get answers from Obama no matter what. Did you see his Reddit display? He responded to questions about beer and sports rather than about Constitutional rights and veterans’ benefits. By the way, that video was fantastic. The Democratic Party does not care about the US citizens and innocent civilians this president is intentionally and illegally killing. Such indifference ought to be publicized.

    Your “tangible list” is far outweighed by the mass destruction this administration has wrought upon the people of this country and people abroad.

    I’ve played the game of working hard within the Democratic Party. It’s a waste. We are nobody to it. Even average liberal Democrats enjoy demeaning those who wish to steer the party back to the left.

    The real answers are to restore civil liberties, bring our troops home immediately, reign in the Pentagon budget, cancel our free trade agreements, enact Medicare for All, abolish the death penalty, strengthen gun safety regulation, legalize marijuana, federally protect marriage equality, prosecute those who perpetrated the financial meltdown and the horrors of the Bush administration, take the drastic action necessary to halt climate change, create a full-employment economy, ensure a living minimum wage, forgive student debt, make public higher education free, stop the continuing bailouts, break up the big banks, and progressively reform the tax code. Obama has not worked to do any of this. Jill Stein will.

  5. Amy L. Sacks Says:

    Coming late to the party (no pun intended) to thank Frank Lee for his explanations of why people vote Green. They’re spot on.

    Somehow I’m not surprised that nobody bothered to respond to his comments. :/ I suppose everyone’s thinking he’s merely showing off “his badge of honor” or whatever. But I came to thank him for reminding me that I’m not alone out here. There’s not one damn thing wrong with demanding that representatives actually (gasp!) represent us! A man who’s stood foursquare for drone-bombing innocents overseas, for bailing out banks, for the right to indefinitely detain any American he dislikes, etc. does not represent me. It’s pretty straightforward.

  6. Frank Lee Says:

    Thank you, Amy. Are you the one who wrote that letter to the editor about “President Hopey”?

    I think the reason why no Obama supporters responded to my comments is that they’re too stubborn and afraid to face the facts. They cling to the one arguable difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum just like a victim of an abusive relationship clings to the fact that the abuser still provides a roof.

    So much for women’s strength and independence. Jill Stein is THE feminist candidate for president, yet we see desperate and unsubstantiated smears hurled at her by those who are really best represented by her. Apparently, women’s rights only matter for American women. The bombing of innocent Middle Eastern women is deemed a fair trade-off for lowering what’s already a remote possibility of federal infringement upon a woman’s right to abortion.

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