Let�s get real about the November election
By Bernard Weiner
Online Journal Guest Writer
Sep 23, 2010, 00:14
I�m finding it difficult to believe that the following
reminders are even needed but, given the volatile electoral situation we�re
facing in November, better to err on the side of common sense. So here goes.
The Republicans are energized by their Tea Party base, which
surveys have shown is composed mostly of veteran GOP ideologues of the
FarRight, old John Birchers, nativists, militiamen, racists and voluntarily
ignorant Know-Nothings. Thanks largely to the mainstream media�s hyping of this
�be-very-frightened� extreme-right coagulation -- led, as always, by the
Republican network Fox, and some radio talk-show bloviators -- a small but
significant number of otherwise unaffiliated but frustrated and angry citizens
have been attracted to candidates backed by this Beck/Palin/Limbaugh-influenced
The Tea Partiers have been able to boost a number of
Republican primary candidates into victory: Rand Paul in Kentucky, Christine O�Donnell
in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Carl Paladino in New York, Joe Miller in
Alaska, Marco Rubio in Florida, et al. But the real question is how those
extremist candidates will do when outside the safe Republican box, facing
ordinary, presumably more reflective voters in the November balloting.
The Democratic Party, per usual, is dazed and confused and
overly timid. Whimpering, whining, and weak. Some Democrats are even urging
their candidates to move rightward to try to capture some of the supposed Tea
A number of key Democrats have professed glee to see the
way-out-there, clearly deficient candidates put forth by the Republicans, aided
by their Tea Party base. We�ll walk all over them, these Dems suggest, since
the traditional numbers are on our side and the voters, even if they�re angry,
aren�t foolish enough to give George W. Bush and Dick Cheney a third term by
sending the GOP back in charge of Congress. Especially not with candidates
clearly afflicted with a bad case of The Crazy.
The enthusiasm gap
Polls have suggested for many months now that the
Republicans, smelling victory, are highly energized and will bring their troops
to the polls in huge numbers in November. The progressive Democrats, suffering
from disappointment in their party�s leaders (especially in President Obama),
are dispirited and may well keep their wallets in their pockets when it comes
to political donations and may not even vote in November.
I share the disappointment, depression and rage at Obama and
leading Democrats and the way they�ve wasted so many months of momentum while
getting their act somewhat together. Yes, I fully realize that the previous
administration handed Obama and the Democrats a stinking pile of crap to deal
with as they headed out the White House door. Moreover, the Republicans have
been thoroughly obstructionist from the git-go, which Obama pretended wasn�t
really happening for far too long. For sure, none of this made the Democrats�
job any easier. But even keeping all this in mind, the Democrats, as usual,
proved themselves to be easy to roll and impede, largely because they refused
to stand up and fight for their principles.
So, if I�m so angry with and disappointed by the Democrats,
what�s the point of this little essay? Why not just sit on my hands on Election
Day in November and thus help the Democratic Party leaders learn a painful
lesson? Namely, that if they abandon their campaign promises, their ideals and
their voting base, they will do so at their peril; write off the progressive
left, as Obama and Co. have done on too many occasions, and they will suffer
Alice in a political Wonderland
But as much as part of me would love to see that lesson
delivered, my common-sense side chimes in with a mighty chorus: When Rand Paul
and Christine O�Donnell and Carl Paladino and Sharron Angle and the others are
the new faces of the Republican Party, American democracy has fallen down Alice�s
rabbit-hole for real. For Democrats, for progressives, for anyone who cares
about the viability of the centuries-old experiment that is our democratic
republic, this is survival time.
If the Republicans take the House and Senate in November, or
even just the House, the Dems are finished as an initiating force for the next
several years, and the HardRight Republicans, who got us into much of this mess
to begin with, will control the agenda. That agenda will not be pretty.
Traditional conservative Republicans understand this, even BushCheney-type Republicans
understand this. When Karl Rove and Alphonse d�Amato and Haley Barbour and
Charles Krauthammer are the �voices of reason� here, you know we�re in Alice�s
universe of strangeness.
Angry Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents:
Please seriously consider the ramifications of what would happen if you enable
the Republicans back into power. Do you want theocratic Neanderthals in charge
of our moral laws and school textbooks? You want unregulated greed-is-good
industries and banks and insurance companies in charge of the economy and
writing pollution legislation? You want nothing done on climate-change? You
want creationism taught as science in schools? You want more and bigger wars?
You want the New Deal and Great Society reforms eliminated? You want no more
Social Security and Medicare? Etc. This would be the future for the next two or
four or eight years if the Republicans were to take over Congress and, perhaps,
the White House two years later. Remember, this is not the relatively �restrained�
party of 2008 (I did say �relatively�!) but the extremist, reckless party of
What is at stake
So, as sympathetic as I am to the anger and frustration from
the left, I don�t want to hear serious talk about not caring who wins in
November, that there�s �not a dime�s worth of difference� between the Democrats
and Republicans. On some meta-level about D.C. politics in general, maybe that�s
true, but in the real world in which most folks live every day, the
metaphorical dime can make a HUGE difference in so many areas of civic life.
With Republicans in charge in Congress, you can kiss a whole
lot of reforms and positive initiatives goodbye: no beginnings of an adequate,
affordable health care system; no Social Security and no Medicare and a greatly
reduced Medicaid; polluters in control of the nation�s air and water; no firm
oversight of insurance companies raising rates regularly and denying care to
those who need it most; an unrestrained �free-market� economy heading us
further into the pit of Depression#2, with even more millions of jobs lost; our
children not getting an adequate education in the humanities and arts and
sciences; more unwinnable wars of occupation, costing trillion$ that could be
spent on domestic needs; a continued degradation of our nation�s infrastructure
and lack of adequate funds for key civic needs (water, police, firefighters,
libraries, parks, etc.). And on and on.
Yes, Obama and the Democrats are a disappointment in so many
ways. True, �the other guys are worse� is not a great platform for the Dems to
run on, but when the Republicans have been so out-front about the damage they
intend to do to the existing body politic and the mixed economy, it�s not just
that they are �worse than� the Democrats but that they would be a horrific
catastrophe for the nation. And, because American economic and military
policies so affect other countries, for the world as well.
We can�t risk considering that a Republican victory �might
not be so bad,� that once they got back into power they�d be more amenable to
compromise and civil debate. The Republicans have proven time and time again in
the past 20 months that they have absolutely no interest in genuine compromise
or civil discourse. Their only motivating goal is to return to power (and thus
to control the economic/political System) by any means necessary.
Getting down to work
Our job in the next six weeks is to hold our noses, if
necessary, and work to defeat Republican candidates, especially the more
extreme Senate and House candidates, by voting and working for Democrats.
Our moral imperative is to see to it that the Republicans
don�t get the chance to take America back to the 1890s. We need to open our
wallets to the candidates running against Paul, Paladino, Angle, O�Donnell and
the rest of the Know-Nothings. We need to get energized and volunteer to help
good Democrats, stuff envelopes, make phone calls, walk the precincts, join a
vibrant get-out-the-vote campaign, drive folks to the polls on November 2, etc.
We have no realistic alternative. This year, there is no
viable third party from the left. If we remain listless in our opposition to
the extreme politics being practiced by the GOP, and refuse to crank up our energy
and commitment to the cause, the consequences will be horrendous, and we�ll
kick ourselves later. By focusing on punishing the weak, centrist-leaning
Democrats, we would be committing a kind of political suicide.
Right now, at this moment, we progressives and moderates are
the bulwark of democracy. We have a Constitution and country to defend. We can
continue working for serious reform of the Democratic Party after we keep the
dangerous, reckless Republicans away from the levers of power on November 2nd.
More purity later, victory now. Onward!
Copyright 2010 by Bernard Weiner
Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, worked as a
writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, has
taught at universities in California and Washington, and currently serves as
co-editor of The Crisis Papers. To comment: email@example.com.
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