In the current scheme of things, progressives can support the Democrats to keep Republicans, who are pretty much batshit crazy, out of office. That's a worthy goal. In fact, it's the reason I vote for Democrats. But sadly, rarely do I really think I'm voting for a Democrat who will fight for the poor and working people of this country. I'm just voting to keep out of office some sort of fascistic nutcase who lives in an alternative universe where global warming is a joke, tax cuts for the wealthy help everyone, war is peace and gays need to be prayed straight.
But it has become so evident this past year that merely voting to keep a Republican out of office does little to forward progressive policies. The Democratic party has clearly shown itself to be every bit as corporate-owned as the GOP. Yes, there are a handful of real progressives in the party. The House, especially, has a fairly good-sized progressive caucus. But it seems that the Democratic leadership favors keeping the conservadems happy. After all, the conservadems can change parties and become Republicans with few if any qualms, but the progressives have no other party to join. In Congress, progressives will accept crumbs; however, the conservadems insist on a four-course banquet and if the Dem leadership won't give it to them they can go across the aisle and get it from the GOP, who'd love to boost their numbers and get back in power. That's the political reality of today's two-party system.
Can we do something about this? Is it realistic to think that the Democratic party can be pushed into being more progressive? Or is it time for a new political party? Can that happen? Should it?
Surely there are progressives with enough money and enough passion to bankroll the founding of a new progressive party. Surely they see--as do most progressives--that there is little hope of pushing this Democratic party into passing legislation that makes corporations and conservatives too unhappy. This means no public option, no expansion of Medicare, no real green infrastructure development, no serious transformation of public education, no serious regulations to stop predatory lending, pollution, production of toxic wastes, etc. You get the picture. We get the same business-friendly policies of the last eight years, window-dressed with empty progressive buzzwords and few real results.
Now, maybe I'm being too cynical. I hope so. I hope someone convinces me that the Democrats aren't a lost cause, that they really will get around to passing policies that improve the lives of poor and working-class and middle-class people in this country. I truly want to be wrong because some party MUST represent the poor and working-class and middle-class.
(You can skip the next three paragraphs if you have no patience for soap-boxing.)
Some party HAS to do this or we drift further away from the beautiful ideals that founded this nation, ideals that we have had to work hard to realize. When progressive politics were ascendant from the 1930s to the 1960s, that's when we made the most progress toward civil and economic justice--and that's when we built a huge and prosperous middle class thanks to the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, the Labor Movement. We have never perfectly embodied the ideals of equality and freedom and bountiful opportunity, but we've been at our best when we've pushed our country to move closer to them.
We need a party to respond to that impulse in the people, the impulse to create opportunity for all, to see that the law is applied equally to all, to see that the government protects us from predators, individuals and corporations, that would deprive us of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to increase their wealth.
And I'm preaching to the choir. I know that most of you want to see progressive policies enacted in this country and most of you share my frustration. We may differ in who we most blame, but we're in agreement that something's gotta give--and soon.
CAN the Democratic party be a progressive party? Or in the constraints of a two-party system, with both parties fighting over the middle, is that pretty much impossible? Conservadems are more valuable and therefore subject to more placating by Democratic leadership because they have another party they can readily switch to. It would be nothing for Nelson or Landreiu or Lincoln to switch to the GOP. They (and the majority of their constituents) are more closely allied with Snowe and the few remaining moderate Republicans. But where would Kucinich go? Where would Franken go? Where would any progressive Senator or Representative go? Surely not the Republican party. So progressives have little leverage in the Democratic party.
It seems to me that a third party, an economically populist progressive party, would move that damned Overton window back to the left. And progressive arguments for policies that would make people's lives better wouldn't get diluted and compromised into unpalatable weak tea.
I think it would benefit us enormously as a nation to have more political parties and to break apart the GOP-Democratic either/or dialogue we've been stuck in for too long.
What do you think?