Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On (re)building the Democratic party

Cross posted at Daily Kos

Well here we go again....just as predicted and right on schedule. Once again, the national (Senate or House) Democrats have let the country down by not calling bullshit on the crimes of this administration, or by not being on the same page. And all that is parroted by the SCLM is that the "Democrats have no plan" or "Democrats fighting again".

So that leads to the just as predictable (and justified) anger at the incompetence and disarray that our leaders in DC are portraying. And unfortunately, it also leads to they typical "time to form a third party" call, "I'm not voting for anyone that didn't support {XYZ issue}" and "kick them all out".

While it is good to see this anger and passion, it really isn't anything other than counterproductive in the long haul. What needs to be done, and more importantly, what is going on right now because of us, is that the Democratic Party needs to be transformed or taken back and rebuilt. And as Rome wasn't built in a day, the disfunctional Democratic Party won't be rebuilt in a few months.

But the pendulum is swinging back in the right direction. Slowly - and to many, too slowly (especially since there are so many major crises in this country) but a lot has been done in a relatively short period of time.

For starters, and just a frame of reference here - by 2008 the Republicans will have held the White House for 28 of the last 40 years. However, between 1950 and 1994, the Democrats had control of the House the entire time, and controlled the Senate for all but 8 years.

Not only that, but the "conservative movement" has been around for quite a while. Pat Robertson's "Christian Coalition" was started back in 1989, but its roots go back to 1964. The "right wing noise machine" started back in the late 80's as well, with Rush Limbaugh's radio show being syndicated. Fox News was started in 1996. The neoconservative movement started back in the 1970's.

And the 1994 "Congressional revolution" was certainly helped by, yup, corruption on the Democratic side of the aisle.

So, what is my point? It took nearly 30 years to get from Point A to the decrepit state of affairs of the past few years. And as we have seen from many many poll numbers and other stories, many many many people are fed up with this. Ratings have declined for O'Reilly. Stations are cancelling Limbaugh. The masses are slowly waking up from their decades-long slumber.

Back in 2000, after 8 years of Clinton in the White House, a popular vote win by Gore and no real foreknowledge of the hell that was about to be wreaked upon this country and world, the Dems in DC thought that they were on the right track to stay competetive or take back one or both houses in 2002 or 2004.

The netroots weren't around back then. Air America wasn't around back then. Not many people even heard of Markos, let alone Daily Kos or other ways that the online community can reach out to each other and to our elected officials. Howard Dean wasn't a known name. The national Democratic party was a mess. There wasn't focus on local Democratic party infrastructure. Or running candidates in all jurisdictions, let alone good solid progressive ones.

And in a few short years, we have popular opinion turning against conservatism. We have people wanting a form of national health care. We have this little nugget from Gallup just out today:

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds the Democratic Party leading the Republican Party 55% to 39% among registered voters in the generic Congressional ballot. Gallup asks this question to get a sense of how people will vote in this year's elections for the U.S. House of Representatives.

This is the largest lead Democrats have held over Republicans in the 2006 campaign thus far, and the largest lead Democrats have enjoyed among registered voters in a midterm election since 1982.

We have politicians posting regularly on Daily Kos, and getting very good feedback. We have Dean putting the infrastructure in place to be competetive in all 50 states. We are running and have run progressive candidates in primaries or special elections in TX, OH, CT and have Iraq war veterans running in many jurisdictions as well. We have Air America in many many cities - certainly more in a shorter period of time than Rush Limbaugh and the RWNM. We have Kos' book about the rise of the netroots generating buzz and good reviews.

We have an online community at DKos (and other blogs) where activists, politicians, progressives young and old(er) come to give support, become active, learn about becoming active are coming together to help reshape the Democratic Party for the future. Hell, we have helped Joe Lieberman start to run scared!! We have teenagers and other "young Democrats" interested in getting involved in local politics or the local chapter of the Democratic party. Or even starting a "young Democrats" club or committee (we saw this diaried a few days ago).

A few years ago, the Dems in DC didn't know or care who We the People are - right, wrong or other. They didn't think that "politics as usual" was a bad thing. Hell, they may have actually thought that was what the masses wanted. But that has changed. Daily Kos is getting press. Some of the people in this community have been quoted. The RWNM is taking notice (and doing what they do best - mocking and flaming). But most of all, the Democrats in DC and around the country are taking notice.

Slowly, and certainly not as fast as any of us would like to. But the tide is turning. And while we haven't seen the big wins yet (hell, even Bill Clinton lost his first election in Arkansas), we have to recognize that the movement to reshape the Democratic party is well underway. And working. The "leaders" in DC aren't going to notice and change their ways immediately. It didn't happen with the republicans or the neoconservative movement, and it certainly won't happen here.

But it took them 30 years. It has been less than 5 for the progressive movement. And a lot has been accomplished in a short period of time. There was a helluva lot to do to reverse and rebuild the rubble that was the national Democratic Party, which really has been in steep decline for the past 10 -12 years.

We can be pissed. Hell, we SHOULD be pissed when we see this happening, especially since we have seen the damage done to this country in the last 5 years. And there is alot of work to do.

But to desert or not support/vote for any Dems that did or didn't do {X} or {Y} at all is completely counterproductive. The foundation is being laid for the reshaping of the Democratic Party. But we aren't going to get progressive candidates to beat Hillary, Schumer, Nelson (take your pick) or many other Dems right now. And they aren't going to step aside and let one run instead.

The first step is to take back Congress. As soon as this November, if possible (and the situation is right for it as well, even with all of the Congressional Democratic fuck ups and missteps). A Democrat as Majority Leader or Speaker of the House is much better than a Republican in that position. Regardless of who that Democrat is.

Then we can continue to get more progressive candidates to run in primaries, or in other elections. But without that first step, we aren't going to get to step 2. The "leaders" in DC certainly don't have a problem eating their own. Hopefully, they will be irrelevant in a few years (not the party but the people) as more progressives and a new generation takes over.

But we shouldn't be staying home on election day and let a less than ideal democrat lose. And starting a third party or even supporting a third party candidate in some instances is certainly not the way to reverse the horrific path that most of this country thinks we are on. Even a less than ideal Dem will vote for a Dem for majority leader (or Speaker of the House). And more importantly, the Committee leadership and legislative agenda will be controlled.

That, is way bigger than doing something stupid that will keep the Republicans in power and the status quo.

But things are moving in the right direction. It just takes patience.

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