I am going to be incredibly brief, at least for me. I am beginning to despair at how we are acting towards one another, and begin to worry about its impact upon the future of the Democratic party.
Perhaps it is because I teach adolescents, primarly 10th graders, but a few in the two higher grades. Several of my students are registered users, and more than a few others come by regularly because they know I participate. And what they are seeing now is turning them off, not only to this site, but to the Democratic candidates on whose behalf the rhetoric has escalated beyond reason.
We have an opportunity this cycle to draw in and get committed a huge number of young people who have not been active participants in the process. And if we can get them we can tilt the balance of power in this country away from the extreme right. But consider what they encounter . . .
people cursing one another. . .
people accusing one candidate or another of everything disreputable under the sun . .
people unwilling to engage in anything approaching civil discourse. . .
Look, I know that some believe that we must engage in vigorous challenges to vet the candidates. That is fine, although we can be vigorous without being obscene or resorting to pejorative attacks.
Remember, this is NOT just about who will be our presidential candidate. If we alienate those young people turning in to the political process in a serious way for the first time, we not only jeopardize what should be a near certain presidential election, the suppression of young people participating will also mean that we do not win down-ballot races that otherwise are ours for the taking. And that also has real consequences, and for the immediate future, including being able to end the war in Iraq, rebuild our economy, restore proper balance of power between the branches, reestablish the principles of civil liberties and of the Constitution.
If the electorate expands, we win=- all of us. Each person we discourage or dissuade from participating hurts us - all of us.
It has been a typical Republican tactic for years to minimize participation - of minorities, of young people, of the poor and working class - because they feared the power of those votes, how many would be against their candidates. Nothing we do in our zeal to advocate on behalf of candidates we support should resort to that - whatever temporary gain we may think we achieve on behalf of our chosen candidate is more than erased by the bitterness we engender, and the number of people, especially young people like those with whom I deal, who become so turned off to the process that they stop listening to any politician and we lose them, perhaps forever.
Most of my students will not vote this cycle - they are too young. But some have been very politically active, and you may well meet a couple a Netroots Nation in Austin. And when their friends start thinking they are silly for participating, that there is no real difference between the parties, it is not just Democrats who are in trouble, it is democracy itself.
Few of my students are willing to defend Bush or any of the Republican candidates, even those who self-identify as Republicans or Conservatives. The danger is the increasing number who getting turned off by all the ugliness, seeing no difference in the invective hurled by candidates and supporters on either side of the political divide.
So please, as we continue in the primary process, do us all a favor. Remember, the children are watching.