I received an email from Daily Kos asking me to sign a petition - a petition in opposition to a bill allowing bosses to no longer pay higher wages for overtime work. This was certainly a bill I would strongly oppose and I'd be happy to take action to stop. The peculiar thing was, the email told me that House Republicans had already passed the bill - and the petition was to be sent to House Republicans.
While I'm willing to send a petition to conservatives asking them not to do something bad, it can be hard enough to get Democrats to do the right thing. Asking conservatives not to do something bad is not a promising activity. Petitioning conservatives not to do something bad after they've already done it seems fairly pointless. There was nothing in the email about asking the Senate or White House to prevent the bill from becoming law - which would be the useful action against this bill. Nevertheless, I clicked the link in the email and submitted my info at the webpage. And voila! My questions were answered - I was presented with another page asking me to contribute to the 2014 Democratic Senate races.
One might wonder: Why is the solution to House Republicans doing bad things supporting Senate Democrats? You might think: Democrats already have a significant majority in the Senate, why not be fighting to win a majority in the House? Well, the fact is that in the 2012 election, adding up all the votes for every Congressional district in the country, Democrats won 51% of the vote for seats in the House. In spite of that, Republicans were given a significant majority in the House. This was possible because of gerrymandering. And if it weren't for selective purging of voter rolls, voter intimidation, 6-hour-long waiting lines to vote at selected voting sites and other mischief, the Democrats would presumably have gotten more than 51% of the nationwide House vote.
These are attacks on the basic premises of democracy. Yet, Democrats' main response is to let Republicans continue to undermine democracy and thereby have a majority of the House - but try to have a Democratic majority in the Senate. As we've seen in the last years, this means "nothing gets done" when it comes to good legislation and sometimes "compromises" are made (that is, bad legislation is passed).
The Sunday talk shows are blabbering about the IRS checking the eligibility for tax-exempt status of groups with "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in the organization's name. This could be inappropriate. On the other hand, if there were reason to suspect such groups were violating the tax-exempt rules, it might be appropriate. In any case, the issue doesn't seem as serious as candidates losing elections because of efforts to misrepresent the voters' will. Where is the Democratic efforts to end gerrymandering and other election abuses?
It reminds me of the diary "Daily Kos is not About More and Better Democrats. It's About Stupid and Stupider Republicans" by jpmassar. Talk about bad Republicans, but little question about what Democrats are doing.
First of all, we need elected officials (of whatever party) who care enough about the democratic processes being undermined to raise the alarm and try to fix the problem. And we need officials who will take action on issues such as overtime pay - not just point fingers. Finally, we need to avoid turning petitions and other forms of action into gimmicks that don't do anything meaningful except trick people into reading a fund-raising pitch.
Using supposed petitions as a lead-in to asking for contributions can have a detrimental effect on real petitions. When people have encountered enough fake petitions, they may become less willing to read other petitions. And if they do start reading a petition, they may not finish if they start to think it may be a fund raising gimmick. "Petitions" that are really appeals for political contributions can actually be a hindrance to progressive efforts. I would hope that the Democratic Party and Daily Kos would stop using this kind of gimmick.