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).
Obama at DNC: We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy & 1000s of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines & long-lasting batteries
— Sierra Club (@Sierra_Club) September 7, 2012
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.