Friday, May 26, 2006

What is the Role of a Democratic Voter in the 24th District?

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.


Anonymous said...

you might have enjoyed last night's Tompkins County Democratic Committee meeting.

Arcuri got the endorsement, but it wasn't simple. Maybe the meeting at least approached the standards you're hoping for from Democrats.

The guy who moved Arcuri's endorsement gave a ringing speech. Not much of it was actually about Arcuri, but it was still awesome.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with 99 percent of what you say, but the fact that so many Democrats are attacking Lieberman is ridiculous. He's not right-wing--he's a moderate Democrat who is a bit more hawkish on foreign policy--but he's generally a reliable liberal on domestic issues. I also think that the campaign against Lieberman has distracted us from more important races, and sends a tacit message that the Democratic Party is trying to purge its more conservative members--not a message that is especially tolerant or advisable.

Anonymous said...

A BIT more hawkish???

A reliable liberal???

Oh, come on! Have you looked at Lieberman's voting record? This guy is with Bush 90 percent of the time!

This is the guy who lectured us all that the First Amendment gives us "freedom of religion, not freedom from religion".

This is the guy who says that critics of the war are unpatriotic!

Lieberman is far, far right. He is a living testament to what's wrong with the Democratic Party right now.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Did you hear how many Democrats voted to confirm General Hayden, the telephone database spymaster, to run the CIA?

What, does Bush have blackmail on them? This frightens me!

Anonymous said...

Were you at the County Committee meeting?

Anonymous said...

Lieberman jumped all over Bill Clinton when Clinton was President. Hillary either really dislikes Bill or she's just a party hack if she is supporting Lieberman.

Political parties have become so institutionalized that perhaps party leaders need to be institutionalized.

24 Independent said...

I am not a member of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, and so I was not at the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Jon you are not part of the Democratic Committee because you should be in the Liberal Party. This was always a separate party. It is the Les Roberts' party. The two extreme parties in this country keep trying to muscle the two main parties into becoming Them because they could never be in power on their own. Your chances of turning the Democratic Party into the Liberal Party are slim to none.

The problem with the Democrats is they are not in any majority anywhere anymore and so they find themselves compromising. That is because they went too far when they were in power. That is how the republicans ate our lunch Jon. This will change now because the far right has muscled the Republicans and now they have gone too far as well. Most people just do not want extremes. They don't want to support the rich with giveaways and they don't want to be taxed to death supporting the poor either. They just want to work to gain a piece of the dream for themselves. They are tired of giving away their own disposible incomes to others in the extreme.

As you can see from our recent past, whether it's too far right or too far left, none of it can endure for very long before the silent majority wakes up long enough to vote, and when they do this, they look for the sensible middle.

Put yourself out of your misery and join the party you belong in. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is intended:

Anonymous said...

Better question:

What is the role of the President? To be bullied by the AG and FBI Director or is he the person in charge?

I'd say the President needs to respect the separation of powers, return the files and accept the resignations of the AG and FBI Director.

Anonymous said...

2:47 - the "Silent Majority" was Tricky Dick Nixon's Republican leaning masses.

The Democrats didn't go too far, they went too long. The voters tire of policies that don't work and politicians who don't serve.

The muddling middle isn't going to cure any problems or provide stability.

The real issue is self versus group. The conservatives represent self interest taken to an extreme. The liberals have not had power in many years but they represent group interest over self. Don't forget the United States is not your personal interest, it is our group interest.

Being in the muddled middle is not leadership, it's ducking responsibility. Paraphrasing Ted Turner, either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way and do it for all of us not just the few or yourself.

24 Independent said...

2:47, I don't really know the spirit in which that message was intended, but from what I know of the history of the Liberal Party in New York, it never really tried to be its own thing, but worked like the Working Families Party does now.

I'm not on the County Democratic Committee here because I've only been in Tompkins County for a year and a few months. I've been asked to join my town's Democratic Committee, but I haven't decided whether to join.

Go back in history, and you'll see why the Democrats in Congress really lost power: It wasn't because they were too liberal. It was because of massive corruption scandals.

I'd like for you to explain how the Democrats in Congress before 1994 were too liberal. Please. Name a policy they had that was too liberal. I can't think of one.

I belong in the Democratic Party if I want to be there. When I was much younger, I looked at the Green Party for a while, and I can tell you that they're not for me. The Liberal Party in New York really doesn't exist anymore, and Working Families is not for me, as I'm self-employed, and not a part of the organized labor scene, and don't want to be.

No, I'll stick around here in the Democrats, thank you. There are too few independent voices in the Party now. It's no time for me to leave.

I'm not ready to surrender the Democratic Party to become the center right party to the Republicans' right wing. We need a progressive alternative that works, and if we can't get the Democratic Party to be that, we can at least be a constantly nagging conscience that prevents the Party from going full tilt into the Bob Casey, Joe Lieberman abysss the leadership seems so hungry for these days.

You don't make any progress by quitting.

I could tell you to go join the Republicans if you're not willing to stick up for progressive policies as a Democrat should...

...but that might be a little bit rude, wouldn't it? So, take my restraint from doing so in the spirit that it is intended.


As for the separation of powers, there's nothing in the Constitution that says that members of Congress, Democrat or Republican, are above the law.

The Congress can impeach the President, and by gum, they damn well ought to - people I know who were adults during the Watergate scandal say that Bush is worse than Nixon. The Executive Branch, on the other hand, has the power to investigate federal crimes, such as bribery, by members of Congress, and it's right to do so.

The Democratic Party does not benefit by having corrupt (and also not very progressive) members of Congress like William Jefferson. Better to lose the seat than to keep a scoundrel like him in it, giving the Democrats a bad name,

Anonymous said...

Whoa. You're "Self-employed, not part of the organized labor scene and don't want to be." How uncomfortable you must be earning money and thinking that nobody else works quite as hard as you without getting all those union freebies.
Lucky for us you're a progressive and will stick up for the working man no matter, right?

Anonymous said...

The middle is not muddled. The middle simply refuses to be extreme. It's called being sensible and remembering....well....
remembering the people who are in the middle while the extremes pull at them from both ends...mostly at their expense.

Biggus Dickus said...

I'd say the President needs to respect the separation of powers, return the files and accept the resignations of the AG and FBI Director.

If you'd be so kind as to point me to the constitutional or legal basis for your belief I'd be most appreciative.

Your friend forever,
Biggus Dickus

24 Independent said...

9:43 - I'm not anti-union, for other people.

Those who have read this blog for a while would readily tell you that I'm not fond of being a cog in a machine. That applies to my professional self as well as to my political self.

So, I am in nobody's employ but my own, and I like it that way. I don't want to sit in a cubicle, or clock in to work and have someone else be my boss. I don't want to be foot soldier in any organization, and that includes unions.

I like to be free and independent, and I've become quite successful at it. It's not a life for everyone, but it's the life for me.

It's a personal decision of mine - please don't try to make it into some kind of tirade about unions.


As for the middle being muddled, I have to say that I agree that politicians who claim to represent the middle are anything but muddled.

On the contrary, they have a razor-sharp focus on doing what it takes to get power and keep it, without any particular attachment to a set of ideals to guide their decisions.

They have no idealism, but they know what they want - for themselves.

The middle does not have any ideas of its own. It merely borrows whatever ideas happen to be popular at the time, uses them while they continue to be a good foundation for political power, and then tosses them aside when they're no longer of use.

It's crass and morally corrupt, but muddled? Oh no. It's crystal clear.

Anonymous said...

Biggus Dickus I like you buddy even if you are a misguided conservative. The Constitutional basis of my opinion is that there are three separate but equal branches of government. If the President can declare executive privilege (find me that in the Constitution), then a certain level of respect for that in the other two branches must also exist.

Having the executive invade congressional offices would be the equivalent of Congressional staffers invading the offices in the White House. There are ways to investigate and prosecute corruption that don't make it look like we have the government of a banana republic.

GW Bush will have the historical value of replacing Andrew Johnson as the worst President in our history. The only question is whether the nation survives him.

Anonymous said...

Those who promote the middle fail to realize why it exists. A very famous political scientist once postulated a theory of political balancing that involved a thesis, then an antithesis and finally a synthesis. And then the cycle repeats.

If the massive swing to the right was a thesis, then we need an equal swing to the left before we reach a middle.