Brought down by a hatchet, not a scalpel, or: Eric once again rants meanderingly about how the Democrats keep breaking his heart...

>> Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm a straight, white, solidly middle-class male. Half the people the Christian right votes into office on a morals platform, are amoral cryptoagnostic wanks who are unlikely to want a theocracy and the other half are too damn crazy to actually make it happen (looking at you, Sarah). I don't have kids to worry about. Hell, my profession is indigent criminal defense--Republican policies are good for business, my business, I mean.

As long as the revolution doesn't occur during my lifetime, what the hell do I have to worry about?

This is what I'm thinking, honestly, as I contemplate the past week-and-a-half of Democrat panic in Washington. Last week it was the panic after the Massachusetts election--"Oh noes, health care is dooooooomed!" This week it's that the President appears to be a day away from proposing an insane spending freeze, something which he rightly and repeatedly derided Senator John McCain for suggesting in 2008. My hands are in the air, my eyes are rolling, my mouth is saying, "What the fuck?"

And the rub is: I'm willing to go against what are arguably my short-term self-interests for the net benefit to everybody, I mean, I'm willing to pay higher taxes for increased programs, I'm willing to ride out storms in the Straits Of Magellan if there's green Pacific waters for all of us on the other side, when I could be sitting fat and comfy and shaking my head at the poor bastards, learning how to blame them for their own troubles while sipping something expensive using the extra money I didn't give away. I'm a liberal, more than anything else, because I believe it's right, not because being a fat white dude with discretionary income leaves me disadvantaged in some way (although I suppose if I were to learn how to be a modern-day Republican, I'd have to come up with some sort of fantasy about how my attorney career was threatened by a lesbian illegal immigrant from Mexico or something).

No, no, no--I'm not actually about to do that. I've voted for Republican friends in local elections, but don't kid yourself about the likelihood of it happening nationally. I don't want to say "never," after all I can imagine far-fetched hypotheticals where I vote for some old-school Republican in, say, an "Eisenhowerian" mold; I also am trying to write a novel where one of the main characters is a wizard, so that's really pretty meaningless. But any of the bozos likely to get nominated by the Republican party for Congress or the White House in the foreseeable future? Excuse me while I wipe spit off my monitor and keyboard.

But will I vote for a Democrat?

I mean, I could not only sit passively back and offer no resistance to the party that will give me tax breaks and job security, but I could have extra free time on particular Tuesdays in November where I'd otherwise be standing in a long line at the elementary school up the road.

And I could take the money I might contribute to a Democrat to try to keep a feared Republican out of office and buy booze or video games or maybe even booze and video games. Ooh! And comic books!

It's occurred to me lately that maybe a big part of the problems we're having right now is that Democrats are confused about who their base is and keep trying to cater to progressives. But maybe progressives aren't the Democrats' base anymore, and haven't been since Bill Clinton. Maybe the real confusion is amongst us progs who mistake the Democrats for the party of FDR, JFK and LBJ, the party of the New Deal, New Frontier and Great Society. Maybe the Democrats just need to come right out and say, "Look, we're the centrist party." They won't do that, because we progressives keep giving them money, because when you get right down to it, we really are stupid and naïve idealists. Maybe we liberals really do need to just abandon the Democrats in droves and invent a progressive party for ourselves. That won't happen, either.

Last week a friend was attempting to install Windows 7 on a tablet, tweeting about it on Twitter while failing. And at one point, he made a sarcastic comment about how great Microsoft's business plan of frustrating users was (actually, the phrase he used was "ass-raping," but nevermind), to which another friend replied that it obviously is successful, since people keep giving Microsoft money for mostly lousy products. The implication being, of course, that maybe it's no wonder Microsoft could give a shit whether they give anyone a happy customer service experience, because, you know, as long as people are unwilling to pay for an Apple or learn how to use an alternative like Linux, what'cha gonna do? And I thought about politics when I read this exchange, how it's been perfectly okay for the Democrats to... err... ass-rape (do you think I should put that in quotes?) progressives because we're not willing to trouble ourselves with the political version of learning Linux. I know, it's a nerdy and attenuated metaphor. Isn't that what you come here for?

(I also feel like I should insert an explanation or apology of sorts to Jim: Jim is perfectly capable of using Linux and may even have a Linux machine lying around somewhere; he wanted Windows 7 because... actually, I don't know. Jim, why did--nevermind that wasn't the point; back on topic--)

This didn't help, either: that I sent an impassioned e-mail to Senator Kay Hagan, the Democratic Senator from North Carolina, reminding her or the staffer I actually expected to read it that she was a member of the party of FDR, JFK and LBJ, and what I got back was the form letter her staff sends everybody who uses the words "health care" in a missive, in which Senator Hagan or her staff nicely allayed all sorts of concerns I might have if I'd been somebody else who'd written a different letter, somebody worried about illegal immigrants getting public health and losing my existing plans, and not somebody worried about the fact that the Senate may not even manage to pass a watered-down bill with only one argument in its favor at all. I mean, I actually went so far as quixotically letting my hypothetical Senator's aide know that I favor a public option even though I realize that's not even under discussion--I just figured she (or he) ought to know, y'know? And I bring it up because it goes back to the point I was dancing around in the previous paragraphs: why do I care more than the people I voted for and sent money to? I'm not saying Senator Hagans owes me a personal reply, good grief, even Ringo Starr's given that up; it's just that it would have been nice if some lackey had sent me the appropriate generic "Thank You For Your Query" letter instead of the generic "Don't Sweat The Healthcare Bill" letter; they don't even care enough to give me the right blow off, y'know? Does that make sense?

We'll see, I guess. Maybe I'll change my mind. Maybe the Republicans will terrify me into action in 2012. Maybe my conscience will triumph over my ire.

Maybe I'll stay home.


Janiece Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 2:06:00 PM EST  

Amoral cryptoagnostic wanks is my new favorite insult, I believe.

And I get those irksome form letters all the damn time. Clearly, my senators and representatives don't give a good goddamn WHAT I think, and respond accordingly.

Nathan Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 2:58:00 PM EST  

I hate to sound like a luddite here but I think this is one of those instances where a printed piece of paper in an envelope with a stamp on it might actually elicit a more targeted response. (It'll probably still be a canned blowoff, but at least it'll be a well-targeted blowoff.)

Mrs. Bitch Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 3:01:00 PM EST  

"Maybe we liberals really do need to just abandon the Democrats in droves and invent a progressive party for ourselves. That won't happen, either."

Why not?!? That's exactly what we need to do, and now would be the time to do it. I swear that if a progressive would run in the next election, I wouldn't care if it would tank Obama's re-election, I would vote progressive. Well, I guess it would depend on their specific agenda, but you get my drift.

I still say it would be incredible if, in the next election, there were four primary tickets:

Democrats - Obama and Biden

Republican - whoever

Teabagger - Hopefully Palin and Bachmann... mwhahahahahahah, snort, gasp!

Progressive - whoever had the best chance of winning.

It would be a race for the ages, I tell ya!

Eric Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 3:13:00 PM EST  

Y'know, Mrs. Bitch, I think your proposal would not only match the real demographics of our culture, but I think it would actually have a better shot at getting things done. While it seems counterintuitive, I suspect it would be easier to get coalition politics working in a non-binary system, because there are issues that seemingly-opposed forces would come together on. (Take, for instance, the ACLU's support of the Citizen's United decision; I personally disagree with the cash=speech/corporations=persons formula that the decision implicitly favors, but I'll concede that Glenn Greenwald, for instance, has an interesting left-wing First Amendment defense of the decision's reasoning.)

And Nathan: I considered a meatworld letter. Instant gratification won out, I'm afraid; I think it was a decent enough letter, but saving the extra steps of printer and Post Office came first, somehow. Maybe you're right, though, that I would've gotten a better-tailored blowoff from it....

Nathan Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 6:10:00 PM EST  

Re: coalition governments

Be careful what you wish for. Coalition governments are notoriously unstable. Or when they are stable, you get things like the Knesset in Israel. The religious party makes up a fairly small minority there, but since the other major parties are so evenly represented, everyone kowtows to them to get anything done. Nobody can make a majority without them.

Kinda sucks too.

leanright,  Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 2:15:00 PM EST  

It's pretty evident that an ultra-conservative like Pat Buchanan or and ultra-liberal like Howard Dean will NEVER be elected.

I understand, Eric and MB, your desire for a progressive, and my desire for a conservative, but simply based on a bell-curve, the vast majority of America is in the middle; slightly right or left of center.

You could start your own progressive party, but you'd probably be wasting your efforts, and possibly take votes away from the democrats, whom I'm sure in your mind, are the lesser of two evils. Think "Nader" 2000. It's commendable and makes you feel good, but in the end, you'll probably be disappointed.

For the record, I believe Pat Buchanan is an idiot.

evabyze: What Obama should have done to his "ticket" instead of picking Biden.

Eric Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 4:19:00 PM EST  

Dave, right now I'm ready to take my vote away from the Democrats--that was the point of the piece. They could, maybe, change my mind by 2012; conversely, the Republicans could terrorize me into going into "lesser of evils" mode. But at the moment, I'm not really persuaded that they deserve to be rewarded for merely not being "too Republican."

I have no problem with the Democrats being the centrist party, or the center-left party. There would be something positive to be said for a party openly acting as a center-left or center-right or center-center party. But I do have a problem with the Democrats expecting me to vote for them because, to paraphrase Kodos or Kang in a classic Simpsons "Treehouse Of Horror" episode, "What am I going to do, vote for a third-party candidate? I might as well throw my vote away!" As I've said before, I don't wholly regret my vote for Nader in 2000, though if I'd known then what Bush would turn into, maybe I would've thrown my vote away on Gore (who had little-or-no shot at North Carolina's electoral votes).

I just have to add: it's meaningless to say, "[I'll] probably be disappointed." You mean if I'm disappointed by the party I expect to be disappointed by, it'll somehow be worse than being disappointed by the party I naively continue to hope will throw me a bone now and again? I'm already disappointed. Maybe I shouldn't be, I guess I should have expected mass incompetence.

But I'm not the least bit disappointed by the Republicans in Washington--they're acting more-or-less exactly as I expected them to. "Disappointment" necessarily requires a pre-existing state of positive expectation, the belief that somebody is capable of behaving in a commendable manner. I actually am having a hard time imagining how the Republican party could conceivably disappoint me; I don't think it's possible.

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