"Jon, you go dry hump trees and picket... We'll win elections, and when we're done, don't come crying for a favor pisshead."
This small bit of writing is exceptionally thick with political ideas that, although crudely expressed, need serious consideration. Before I begin that consideration, however, allow me to express the following disclaimer:
There is a big difference between Michael Arcuri and the supporters of the Arcuri for Congress campaign. I have seen Mike Arcuri speak, and I've spoken with him briefly, and I don't believe that Arcuri himself shares the sentiment expressed in the above quote. I have, however, encountered this beligerent, disdainful attitude from Arcuri supporters on a regular basis since I started writing about New York State's 24th congressional district back in January. What I write this morning pertains to Arcuri's supporters and the Oneida County Democratic machine that is fueling Arcuri's congressional campaign, not Michael Arcuri himself.
The political philosophy of this electoral machine is of fundamental relevance to the choice Democratic voters will make this September, because, if Michael Arcuri is elected to the US House of Representatives, much of the Oneida County Democratic machine will be transferred to manage Representative Arcuri's relationship with the voters of the 24th District. Mike Arcuri has the chance to take a stronger leadership role in his campaign, and show his supporters how to have a more open, positive attitude toward Democratic grassroots voters, but that change needs to take place sooner than later, before it becomes fixed.
Now, on to the content of that very interesting comment. I'll take it point by point.
1. The commenter derides progressive Democrats such as myself as people who "dry hump trees and picket". The commenter's suggestion is that:
A] Core progressive Democratic values such as environmentalism are to be laughed at, rather than appealed to, by our Democratic candidates.
B] Democratic progressive activism, whether by union members out on a picket line, or anti-war protesters in a peace march, is unimportant and of no relation to this election.
2. The commenter claims to be part of a group of insiders who are separate from, and more important than, the rest of us ordinary Democrats. "We'll win elections," the commenter writes, dismissing grassroots Democrats to a status of non-participation, mere consumers of a campaign produced from the top down.
3. The commenter prioritizes winning elections above promoting the progressive agenda that Democratic voters actually care about, neglecting to understand that the way to win an election is to appeal to the issues that are important to voters. Democratic voters who have been disappointed for years, watching elected Democratic officials who fail to stand up to the Republicans, are all-too experienced with this kind of misjudgment. The crass attitude of campaign insiders that values winning over idealism turns off these Democratic voters, and keeps them from voting and volunteering.
4. Finally, the commenter warns, "when we're done, don't come crying for a favor pisshead." My goodness. There are many problems with this part of the statement, but let me cover the top three points.
A] It's never a good idea to try to promote a Democratic candidate by calling committed, involved Democratic voters names like "pisshead".
B] The comment is clearly designed to warn Democrats that if they support anyone but Michael Arcuri in the Democratic, they won't be able to communicate with their own representative in Congress if Arcuri wins. This suggests the kind of dangerous elitism that can separate a candidate from the public. If a committee of insiders is allowed to prevent a public official from hearing the voices of the full range of the constituency, that public official cannot do a good job of representing the people, no matter how much he would like to.
C] The commenter assumes that the only reason that a Democrat would get involved in an election is in order to get special favors from the victor when the election is done. This attitude can only come from a deeply corrupted mind that has forgotten everything about politics except how to turn it into a source of profits. Personally, my business is not the kind that could benefit from special favors from a member of Congress, and in that respect, the huge majority of Democratic voters and activists are like me.
What this commenter cannot seem to fathom is that we're involved in politics not because we want to get "our guy" in power so that we can reap the financial benefits, but rather because we love America and we love our local communities. We love liberty, and we believe in the progressive values that are at the heart of the best of the American tradition.
We don't want to have to ask our member of Congress to promote these bedrock values as a "favor" to us. We want a member of Congress who understands that promoting these values is a duty that comes with the job of U.S. Representative.
I'd like to think that Michael Arcuri understands this difference. But, it's clear that many of his supporters, especially the most vocal of them, do not understand the difference. They create the strong impression that Michael Arcuri is surrounded by a group of cynical political insiders who don't care about much else than using Arcuri to gain personal power for themselves.
For this reason, above all others, Michael Arcuri needs to do a better job of proving that he is above the politics of power. Michael Arcuri's campaign needs to spend less time touting how much money it can raise, and spend more time demonstrating that Michael Arcuri stands for something bigger than himself.
This is a time when Democrats need to see a candidate who is willing to cast politics as usual aside. We need a candidate who can inspire us, not intimidate us. We need a candidate who can tell us that he deserves our vote not because he is a big man, but because he is a good man.
Currently, the voice of Michael Arcuri the man is drowned out by the many voices of the Arcuri for Congress campaign. If Arcuri is to win the Democratic nomination, he needs to learn to move beyond his historic role as a local politician enabled by his county's Democratic machine and demonstrate that he has the stature to merit a position in Congress. Arcuri needs to stand up and become a leader.
It has been repeatedly proven that, at vital moments in history such as the one we are experiencing now, the ordinary influence of financial power and institutional power gives way to the influence of moral power, skillfully applied.
If Michael Arcuri cannot bring himself to grow into a leader capable of applying such moral power, then Democratic voters may well look to the moral example of Les Roberts, no matter how many advertisements for Arcuri they see on TV.