I was tempted to write, today: "Count me out. No, not from writing this blog. Count me out from the Democratic Party."
For the first time in years, the Democratic voters of the 24th District had the opportunity to select a candidate with a realistic chance to get into Congress. Then, they had that opportunity taken away from them.
What is the role of a Democratic voter in the 24th District now? There is nothing left for us voters but to line up behind Michael Arcuri, a candidate that we did not select for ourselves.
The Democratic Party is, in theory, set up as a democratic organization, with the goal of enabling voters to select who will represent the Democratic Party in the general election. Operationally, the Democratic Party works to squelch voter choice, stopping primary elections whenever it can. Democratic politicians and their aides now generally believe that primaries are "good for voters, but bad for the Party".
I'm not making up that quote. It's a phrase I've heard spoken almost identically from people working on the different Democratic congressional campaigns in our district this year.
"Good for voters, but bad for the Party" - please, pause for a minute and consider the meaning of that phrase.
Once, I served as a member of the State Democratic Committee. I actually believed that, given the choice of what is good for voters and what is good for the Party, most Democratic politicians would choose what was good for voters. I don't believe that any more.
Over the last few years, I've seen too much to contradict that notion. At a time when it could finally stand up for the great American tradition of progressive values like honesty, liberty, accountability and the rule of law, the Democratic Party is choosing to abandon those ideals for a whatever-it-takes-to-win approach to retaking Congress.
In its campaign to replace the Republicans in Congress, the Democratic Party is adopting more and more Republican attitudes, becoming the very thing that it seeks to replace. Over and over again, the Democratic Party is failing to make any kind of principled stand for what's right. Instead, Democratic politicians are choosing whatever works.
In the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, the majority of the seven Democrats voted in favor of recommending General Michael Hayden as the next Director of the CIA, in spite of the fact that General Hayden has worked at the NSA to help George W. Bush set up illegal programs to help the government engage in electronic spying against huge numbers of completely innocent Americans.
Here in New York State, our two Democratic senators voted in favor of starting the Iraq War. They voted in favor of the infamous Patriot Act. They have actually defended President Bush from a resolution of censure. When America needed them to stand up, they remained comfortable in their seats.
Democratic politicians from across the nation are rushing over to Connecticut to defend right wing Democrat Joseph Lieberman from his progressive Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont. These Lieberman supporters include the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Watching them try to find something to praise about Joseph Lieberman is deeply embarassing, and profoundly troubling. The ineptitude and valueless pursuit of power by Democratic politicians has become every bit as much of a threat to the integrity of the tradition of American liberty as the Republican Party.
There are good progressive Democratic leaders out there, but I won't have the chance to vote for them any time soon. So, what's the point of giving my support to the Democratic Party? I care more about what's good for the voters of our District than I do about what's good for the Democratic Party.
So, I was tempted to march on down to the Tompkins County board of elections and change my registration to independent - no party affiliation. I was tempted, but I won't go.
I thought about the Democratic supervisor of the Town of Ulysses, a man who was cross-endorsed by the Democratic and Republican parties in last year's election, leaving voters in my town with no choice but to vote for him or not vote at all. I thought about Russ Feingold, preparing his progressive run for the White House in 2008. I thought about Jonathan Tasini, who is daring to challenge Hillary Clinton's support for the Iraq War from within the Democratic Party.
I don't really care about the Democratic Party, but I do care about the Democrats who are brave enough to work for the old values enshrined in the Bill of Rights, in spite of the fact that the leadership of the Democratic Party is doing everything it can to distance itself from those values.
In a time when the Democratic Party is competing with the Republican Party to see which party can better appeal to right wing voters, leaving the rest of America behind, it's more important than ever for Democrats who disagree to remain within the party and resist.
Maybe I don't represent the majority opinion within the Democratic Party, but I do have the right to represent myself as a Democrat. So, not just in spite of the failure of Democratic leadership, but also because of the failure of Democratic leadership, I will remain a Democrat - and make as much trouble for the right wingers in our party as possible.