… everyone has to answer for themselves these questions: (1) do you believe that the incalculable damage imposed on this country by the Bush administration and its followers (including in Congress) can be impeded and then reversed and, if so, (2) how can that be accomplished? For those who have given up and believe the answer to question (1) is “no,” then, by definition, there is nothing to discuss. You’ ve decided that there is no hope, that you’re done fighting and trying to defend any of your beliefs and principles, and you’re ready to cede the country to those who are in the process of destroying it.
And may I interject, if your answer is no, you may be right. Time will tell. But until time has told, I’m proceeding with yes. That’s the choice I’ve made. If your choice is no I’m not going to say you are wrong, but you might as well stop reading, because the rest of this post is devoted to yes options. And if all you have to add to the comments is no — don’t bother.
But for those who believe that the answer to question (1) is “yes” (and I believe that emphatically), then the answer to question (2) seems self-evidently clear. The most important and overriding mandate is to end the one-party rule to which our country has been subjected for the last four years. Achieving that is necessary — it is an absolute pre-requisite — to begin to impose some actual limits on the authoritarian behavior and unchecked powers of this administration — because, right now, there are no such limits.
And, independently, killing off unchallenged Republican rule is the only possible way to invade the wall of secrecy behind which this administration has operated and to find out what our government has actually been doing for the last five years. Shining light on the shadows and dark crevices in which they have been operating is vitally important for repairing the damage that has been done. If nothing else, a Chairman Conyers or a Chairman Leahy, armed with subpoena powers, will accomplish that.
This is a point I’ve tried to make many times, and it’s nearly always countered by a chorus of whining about how Dems are wusses and they always will be wusses and only idiots support them. Listen, nobody could possible be more frustrated with Dems than I am. But if we’re operating on the assumption of yes, we need the Dems, like it or not. And here’s why:
First, you cannot ignore parties. Political parties are intrinsic to how Congress functions. It matters enormously which party is the majority and which party gets to choose committee chairpersons and set agendas.
What about third parties? Bucking the two-party system isn’t an idea somebody came up with last week. Americans started complaining about the two-party system back when the two parties were the Democrats and the Whigs. Since about the 1830s vast numbers of Americans have worked their butts off to create viable national third parties. They have always failed. I don’t see a 180-year trend reversing itself in the next six weeks.
The reason third party candidates can’t win has to do with how we run elections, in particular the “winner take all” system in which whoever gets the most votes gets the prize. Countries with viable multiple parties have runoffs if nobody gets a majority, and that makes a world of difference. Go here and play with the demonstrations if you don’t understand why this is true.
Even if you could elect a third-party candidate, that person would be helpless to accomplish anything unless he became a de facto member of one of the two parties. And, frankly, even if we could scrape the Dems out of the picture entirely and start over with a dream party of fired-up progressives, given our poisoned political culture our dream party would end up being just like the Dems. We’re not going to get the party we want until we change the political culture, and we won’t get even a chance to do that until we break one-party Republican rule.
I know the Dems are flawed. But here’s an analogy: Let’s say you’ve got a job to do that ought to be done with a hammer. But you don’t have a hammer; all you have is a wrench. You can do the job with a wrench, but it’s going to take longer and the results will not be perfect. But without some kind of tool you can’t do the job at all.
In the real world you might choose to put off doing the job until you can get your hands on a hammer. But let’s say your life depends on doing this job right now. By the time the hardware store opens it will be too late. So are you still going to sit passively until you get a hammer, or do you wrench away?
I see a Dem takeover of Congress this November as a stopgap measure. Even if Dems take both houses of Congress we face enormous challenges to pull the nation back from the brink and restore our pathological political culture to something approaching health. But if the Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress, the task of saving our nation may become impossible.
Time is short. We cannot afford to sit on our hands and wait for the Messiah Candidate to come and save us. We’ve got to work with the tools we have. Once we’ve pulled back from the brink of disaster we can take steps to get better tools.
Here’s another analogy: Imagine you are stranded on your roof in rising floodwaters. Sooner or later you’re going to drown if you aren’t rescued. Yet you refuse to be rescued in an old rowboat because it might be leaky and you are waiting for a helicopter.
Well, folks, the Dems are the rowboat, and there ain’t gonna be a helicopter.
… a desire to see the Democrats take over Congress — even a strong desire for that outcome and willingness to work for it — does not have to be, and at least for me is not, driven by a belief that Washington Democrats are commendable or praiseworthy and deserve to be put into power. Instead, a Democratic victory is an instrument — an indispensable weapon — in battling the growing excesses and profound abuses and indescribably destructive behavior of the Bush administration and their increasingly authoritarian followers. A Democratic victory does not have to be seen as being anything more than that in order to realize how critically important it is.
If at this point you are still thinking you’d rather eat bugs than support the Democrats — fine, but if you answered yes, what options can you offer?
I’ve been reading through the comments on Glenn’s site. One person after another writes no way; Dems cave in time after time; how are they different from Republicans? But none of them can offer an alternative, other than armed rebellion. That amounts to a concession that the nation already is dead. Maybe it is. But armed rebellions are nasty and bloody, and armed rebellion likely would not bring the old government of 1787 back, no matter who wins. There’s no way to predict what will be left standing when the dust settles. I’d rather not go there, thanks.
In the real world, one has to either choose between two more years of uncontrolled Republican rule, or imposing some balance — even just logjam — on our Government with a Democratic victory. Or one can decide that it just doesn’t matter either way because one has given up on defending the principles and values of our country. But, for better or worse, those are the only real options available, and wishing there were other options doesn’t mean that there are any. And there are only six weeks left to choose the option you think is best and to do what you can to bring it to fruition.
That pretty much says it. If you still aren’t persuaded then — Canada is north.