Partisanship is not Enough
by Matt Stoller, Fri Jun 08, 2007 at 12:25:45 PM EDT
The poll is from the Washington Post.
Progressives are in a bit of a bind these days. The Republicans are still sadistic extremists, and with the challenge to Hagel in Nebraska, they will remain that way for at least another few cycles. Despite the victory in 2006, liberal Democrats are still cut out of power and policy-making. House Democrats want to fund abstinence only education, Virginia Democrat Rick Boucher and Michigan Democrat John Dingell are trying to block California's actions on global warming, the CBC is sucking up to Fox News, Hillary Clinton is saying that she understands the war on terror because she is from New York and that we are safer since 9/11, and lobbyist and blog-hater Steve Elmendorf's business is exploding.
Abortion opponent and religious theocrat Jim Wallis may not have been quite right when he said"The Religious Right and the secular Left both lost on Election Night", but he wasn't far off. Democrats haven't been able to restrict Bush in a possible attack on Iran because they can't get a majority to vote against yet another war. And then there's the big betrayal, of course, on Iraq. This piece by Mark Udall should give all of us pause in our strategic understanding of where we are in the party hierarchy.
Opponents of the war claimed moral high ground by voting against funding, knowing all the while that a presidential veto saved them from the consequences of actually scaling back the equipment and medical supplies that sustain our soldiers, while advocates of the war shed tears and thumped their chests about defeating "terrorists" without ever explaining how deploying our soldiers to referee a civil war does anything but weaken our national security.
Meanwhile, labor looks strategically unwise. Three weeks after it's become clear that the Democratic front-runner's chief strategist profits from union-busting, two labor leaders, James Hoffa and Bruce Raynor, wrote a tentative whiny note to Clinton asking her to consider their concerns. She promptly told them in PR-speak to go fuck themselves, and they don't seem to care. And this has real consequences - here's a high level Democratic staffer talking to a business lobbyist on the Employee Free Choice Act in Roll Call:
"My pitch to the business community was, `You want a lot from us, but you're now siding with the hard right,'" said the second senior House Democratic aide. "This card check bill is never going to see the light of day, and this is what you're going to spend your political capital on?"
This is in Roll Call. Roll Call. Labor is the pillar of the progressive community, and is openly being dismissed as irrelevant. And that's before getting to Rangel's utter betrayal and moral corruption in his trade deal.
The progressive movement on the internet isn't recognizing these realities either. Read the op-ed above; Mark Udall thinks we hate the troops, and he's going to be coming around to us for cash in his Senate bid in Colorado. And a lot of people are going to give it to him.
Now, this might sound depressing, and it is. But it's also a reality of politics these days, and it's the consequence of 35 years of organizing by the right wing and only around eight years on our side. The people in charge of the political system are the swing votes and the people that those voters want to work with. Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel have positioned themselves to be this swing vote, and they have chosen to basically throw some crumbs our way (minimum wage) while voting with the Republicans on the big issues, like Iraq.
This isn't permanent. In four to six years and after a few more losses, it's possible that the GOP is going to realign around a more moderate agenda, and in the meantime we can broaden out and build bridges between progressives and independents. We can learn to educate and/or cut off people like Udall, and encourage labor to stand up harder for workers. But that hasn't happened yet, so moderate patsies like Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer are still large and in charge. We are still losing credibility among antiwar independents (see above graphics), and Bush is retaking the initiative as leader.
We're going to get there one day. I date the beginning of the open left to the fall of 1998, when Moveon was founded in response to the Clinton impeachment. We've taken huge steps forward with our primary challenge to Lieberman and our new crop of freshmen in 2006. And we've branched into policy, and now have a few inside players on a few key issues.
The ultimate point here though is that we are not a partisan movement and should no longer think of ourselves as such. We are an ideological movement. We have ideas, and want to see those ideas driven with power. This means that we need to get down to the hard work of disabusing ourselves of candidate-centric politics, and work to create primary challenges wherever possible, as well as keep building forums for the dissemination of new ideas. Udall may or may not be a good guy, though certainly he seems like an immoral coward. I could probably not bring myself to support him, though I wouldn't blame others if they did. But the point is that Udall has been persuaded that conservative ideas work, even if he's a Democrat. And that's what we have to tackle.
Update [2007-6-8 18:34:3 by Matt Stoller]:: Democrats.com has a list of candidates who voted against the McGovern amendment and possible primary challengers.