Forcing Democratic Politicians To Legislate Progressively
One thing has become crystal clear over these last nine months — the Democrats do not give a rat’s ass about the core concerns of the Progressive movement. On the campaign trail ‘candidate’ Obama said all the right things and with eloquence; with passion. He articulated a whole host of issues important to us, and outlined how best to fix them, and we were in agreement. His vision for change resonated with and inspired tens of millions who had for so long been cynical, apathetic — hopeless — about the U.S. political establishment. He restored their hopes, only to spend his first nine months eradicating them for good. Americans entrusted Obama and the Democrats with the Presidency and a majority in both houses, as well as with a clear mandate to implement the changes they promised. Since then, they’ve done everything possible to undercut us on nearly every critical issue.
The problem is much bigger than Obama ‘the candidate’ VS Obama ‘the president’. The problem is endemic to this two-party system — a system which ensures that voting against the ‘token’ Democrat — and instead for a third-party candidate — often yields something far worse: a neo-con. This setup provides an insidious Democratic party monopoly on the entire left-of center-spectrum and the Republicans the same monopoly for anyone to the right of center. It insulates each party’s candidates from the wrath of their respective electorates, thereby allowing the politicians to undermine the citizenry at every turn. This fortress around the two parties creates a haven for moneyed special-interest groups to thrive within: to legally bribe our candidates, and to ensure that all legislation is written to serve their best interests, even when their interests conflict with those of the American people.
These days, most Progressives have a ‘line of thinking’ that goes something like this:
“Well, my candidate has broken every campaign promise he ever made, so we’re grappling with the realization that we’re not going to get real change. But, having said that, Obama and the Democrats are still far better than Bush, McCain-Palin, and the other Republicans. And for that matter, Obama will surely be better than any serious contender (meaning one of the two-party contenders) he’ll face three years from now.”
All true, yet consider this: Obama and the Democrats are well-aware of this ‘line of thinking’. It’s why we aren’t getting a robust public option. It’s why Guantanamo Bay is still open, and our troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s why Obama has done everything in his power to stamp out any investigations of — and even block the release of any information on — the crimes committed by the Bush Administration. This ‘line of thinking’ has given Obama the ‘Audacity’ to cut back-door deals with the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries — effectively undermining a robust public option, and stripping the government the right to negotiate drug prices downwards — all before actual health reform negotiations had even begun. He promised transparency in the health reform process, then proceeded to hide it all from public scrutiny. Because Obama knows that — as a Democratic party candidate — he will always remain the ‘lesser of two evils’ in his constituency’s eyes. He knows we’re never going to risk putting another George W. Bush in power. We are essentially ‘in the bag’, as far as he and his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s political estimations are concerned.
There is an old saying: ‘Sometimes it has to get worse, before it can get better’. At some point, Progressives will have to vote against the Democratic Party to force the party’s interests to become aligned with our own. Yes, this strategy will probably yield some horrible Republican politicians in the short term — as the Democratic Party’s ‘wake-up-call’ costs them their comfortable majority — but it will send a very clear message to them: they are no longer insulated from the wrath of their progressive base. They will learn that there is a bite behind the bark.
Progressives need to stop following blindly — like sheep — behind Democratic candidates. We should ONLY vote for Democrats who have advocated for our interests. If the Democratic Candidate has legislated against our interests, and there exists no third party candidate who shares our ideals, then we should just stay at home. We do this, and I guarantee that by the following election cycle, the Democratic party will reawaken as a new progressive entity. And only then will we achieve real change.